Print media coverage of COVID-19 impact on children
The Asian College of Journalism, in collaboration with UNICEF, conducted content analysis research to understand the print media’s coverage of the COVID-19 impact on children. The study looked at the newspaper coverage of The Hindu and Times of India (both Chennai editions) for a period of eight months from March 1, 2020 to October 31, 2020, to understand the print media’s coverage of children’s issues during the first wave of the pandemic.
The broad research questions asked during this study were:
a) What were the issues, related to children, covered by the media during the period of the pandemic? Were all stories linked or related to the pandemic?
b) What was the spread of the stories in terms of impact of the pandemic on children – did they discuss the direct impact on children more or were they largely about the secondary impacts?
c) Which issues concerning children (on health, education, or protection and so on) received considerable coverage and attention from the media?
d) Were the stories representational of children from different categories such as age, gender, caste, class, region/location, community, etc.?
A preliminary analysis of the data brought out the following key findings:
- Children and their issues received significant coverage in newspapers such as The Hindu and Times of India, during the pandemic.
- Fewer stories related to direct/primary impact of the pandemic on children could be due to the fact that children were less affected by the virus during the first wave.
- A majority of stories during the chosen time period were on the indirect impact of the pandemic and under ‘Development’ rights, which further focussed on themes related to education, exam, and schooling.
- The focus on stories on education, exams (board exams and entrance exams) also reflect considerable indecision and delay at the policy level.
- Stories on ‘Development’ rights not related to the pandemic focussed on key political issues such as NEP, OBC quota in medical admissions, and 7.5% reservation for government students in medical colleges in TN.
- Quite apart from the pandemic, ‘protection’ rights of children were of considerable concern and require serious attention.
- A high number of news reports on most issues connected to children, show that the media still does not adequately engage with issues concerning children apart from just reporting them.