COVID-19 (Coronavirus) continues to dominate all media coverage and all our social media feeds and will likely do so for weeks to come. The nature of the coverage is, however, changing. Using our advanced topic modelling approaches, we demonstrated in our last analysis of media coverage three distinct phases as the virus moved from being an East Asian concern to a global pandemic with wide-reaching social, political and economic implications.

Looking at data from the last week’s coverage, while many more countries have gone into increased forms of lockdown, the overall themes being discussed have remained relatively stable. Our bird’s eye view shows articles still broadly falling into the following areas but the depth and nuance of coverage within these themes is increasing:

  • Public health
  • Economic impact
  • Social impact
  • Political and policy dynamics

So, what’s changed?

Public health issues

  • The impact of the virus on hospitals and medical staff, and the shortages that they are facing, has grown as a substantial topic in the last week, with some highly personal social content penetrating traditional media coverage.
  • However, the media has also been keen to report on companies that are shifting their production capabilities to items in need (such as hand sanitizer, masks and ventilators) or donating items that they had in stock.

Economic impact

  • The economic impacts of increased prevalence and severity of ‘lockdown’ – in which only essential workplaces are remaining open – has become a major part of media coverage. Industries that weren’t previously affected, such as the automotive and film industry, are being discussed more as the full depth and range of the economic impact starts to hit home.

Social impact

  • Although the cancellation of the Olympics was a big story this week, a lot of cancellations had already been announced. Increased restrictions on social movement – such as school closures and closures of other facilities such as parks and shopping malls – featured prominently in this week’s coverage.
  • As lockdown has set in, there’s also been a rise in ‘celebrity impact’ articles – including celebrities that have or are suspected to have contracted the virus, offering tips and tricks through entertainment or exercise videos, or those just looking to get attention.

Political and policy decisions

  • As the economic impacts look to stretch on into the coming months, political leaders are looking at ways to support individuals and businesses affected in order to stave off or mitigate the potential impacts of recession. Coverage of longer term financial impacts and how these packages will be paid for currently appears to be on the back burner.
  • While there is also currently critiques of political responses to the virus, we are also seeing a more supportive and less polemic form of journalism temporarily taking hold. It is not clear how long this will hold, and out analysis in the coming weeks will look to identify more partisan reporting.

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