More than mortality data: a news media analysis of COVID-19 deaths in Aotearoa, New Zealand

Morgan, Tessa and Carey, Melissa ORCID: and Gott, Merryn and Williams, Lisa and Egli, Victoria and Anderson, Natalie (2021) More than mortality data: a news media analysis of COVID-19 deaths in Aotearoa, New Zealand. Kotuitui: New Zealand journal of social sciences online.

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News media have an important social role during times of disruption including national emergencies. This paper bears witness to the 21 New Zealanders who died during the first lockdown due to COVID-19 by critically examining the nature of their portrayal in mainstream newspapers. We searched Knowledgebasket for newspapers published between 28 February 2020 and 13 May 2020 relating to COVID-19 deaths. Of the 147 included articles, 50 were selected for in-depth thematic analysis. Our key finding is that COVID-19 made the death of ordinary older New Zealanders newsworthy, albeit in a way that distinguished individuals by residential status. This is reflected in the themes identified: (1) Unexpected community deaths; (2) Inevitable aged residential care deaths; (3) Justification for lockdown measures. We conclude that New Zealand journalists played an important advocacy role in justifying New Zealand’s ‘go hard go early’ approach through the largely compassionate coverage of older people’s deaths.

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Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Current - Faculty of Health, Engineering and Sciences - School of Nursing and Midwifery (1 Jan 2015 -)
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Current - Institute for Resilient Regions - Centre for Health Research (1 Apr 2020 -)
Date Deposited: 15 Apr 2021 01:49
Last Modified: 27 Apr 2021 04:54
Uncontrolled Keywords: COVID-19; death; media analysis; newspapers; aged residential care
Fields of Research (2008): 11 Medical and Health Sciences > 1117 Public Health and Health Services > 111702 Aged Health Care
Fields of Research (2020): 44 HUMAN SOCIETY > 4410 Sociology > 441007 Sociology and social studies of science and technology
42 HEALTH SCIENCES > 4205 Nursing > 420503 Community and primary care
Socio-Economic Objectives (2008): C Society > 92 Health > 9204 Public Health (excl. Specific Population Health) > 920407 Health Protection and/or Disaster Response
Socio-Economic Objectives (2020): 20 HEALTH > 2004 Public health (excl. specific population health) > 200406 Health protection and disaster response
13 CULTURE AND SOCIETY > 1302 Communication > 130204 The media
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