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News reporting on the experiences of university students in South Africa during the COVID-19 pandemic. a content analysis of News24 and TimesLive.

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This research was necessitated by the surge of the coronavirus pandemic that hit the globe in March 2020. Global media, including in South Africa, took on the role of informing and educating citizens on the virus from its discovery to continuous updates on the changing patterns. News media houses have been critiqued for a lack of adequate reporting on profound experiences of university students due to the lockdown (Landa, Zhou & Marongwe, 2020). Stiegler and Bouchard (2020) acknowledge that the response by South Africa towards the pandemic seemed organised and kept the population calm. However, they further elaborate that there might be some underlying experiences that were not adequately captured, robbing the country and the global village of an opportunity to learn about the significant effects of national lockdown. This study is located within cultural and media studies to explore the experiences of university students in South Africa during the COVID- 19 induced national lockdown. News articles from two South-African based online publications News24 and TimesLive published during lockdown level five to three (5 March to 30 April 2020) to (1 May 1 to 30 May 2020) and level three of the second wave (29 December 2020 to 1 March 2021) are studied. The study employs a qualitative research approach using the qualitative content analysis and the discursive approach by Bednarek & Caple (2014). The themes were interpreted using two principal theories namely Harcup and O’Neill’s (2001: 2017) news values approach and Bednarek & Caple (2014) framework for the analysis of news discourse. The themes which were dominant from this research are inequalities, digital migration, virtual graduation for students, mental health of students, staying at home, national level 3 lockdown – saving the calendar. The majority of news values that appeared to define the reporting include surprise, good news, magnitude, relevance and follow-ups. The discourses that revealed the news values include digital migration (news value: relevance) and mental health of students (news value: bad news). The discourse analysis has revealed that the majority of news values were construed through themes from stories/articles that were written during the first wave of the pandemic. These include surprise, good news, magnitude, relevance and follow-ups. During the second wave of the pandemic only one news value on bad news was construed according to my research.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.