Topic analysis of traditional and social media news coverage of the early COVID-19 pandemic and implications for public health communication
Chipidza, W., Akbaripourdibazar, E., Gwanzura, T., & Gatto, N. M. (2022). Topic analysis of traditional and social media news coverage of the early COVID-19 pandemic and implications for public health communication. Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness, 16(5), 1881-1888. Article 1935789321000653. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1017/dmp.2021.65
OBJECTIVE: To characterize and compare early coverage of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in newspapers, television, and social media, and discuss implications for public health communication strategies that are relevant to an initial pandemic response.
METHODS: Latent Dirichlet allocation (LDA), an unsupervised topic modeling technique, analysis of 3271 newspaper articles, 40 cable news shows transcripts, 96,000 Twitter posts, and 1000 Reddit posts during March 4-12, 2020, a period chronologically early in the timeframe of the COVID-19 pandemic.
RESULTS: Coverage of COVID-19 clustered on topics such as epidemic, politics, and the economy, and these varied across media sources. Topics dominating news were not predominantly health-related, suggesting a limited presence of public health in news coverage in traditional and social media. Examples of misinformation were identified, particularly in social media.
CONCLUSIONS: Public health entities should use communication specialists to create engaging informational content to be shared on social media sites. Public health officials should be attuned to their target audience to anticipate and prevent spread of common myths likely to exist within a population. This may help control misinformation in early stages of pandemics.