Date of Award
Master of Science
Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication
This study examined the coverage of the anti-AIDS drug, AZT, in two major South African English-language newspapers to evaluate the media's role in the social amplification of risk regarding AZT. In 1999, President Mbeki claimed that AZT was toxic, and consequently the government resisted a timely treatment and prevention program using AZT. Newspaper articles were collected surrounding President Mbeki's six addresses regarding AZT from 1999 to 2001. The coverage was assessed by five variables: frequency, prominence, the number and types of sources, sensational words, and tone across three units of measurement: overall average, the issue cycle time frame, and the risk event time frame.
Findings revealed that the media may have served to amplify the risk of AZT based on overall averages due to frequency and sources, while the other variables of prominence, sensationalism and tone may have lessened the extent of such amplification. However, this study emphasizes the importance of looking at coverage in multiple time frames. The results of evaluating the issue cycle time frame are similar to the overall measurement except for less emphasis on sensational words, but the results of evaluating the risk event time frame suggest a much greater amplification effect in all variables except for tone. There were no meaningful differences in coverage between two newspapers that are representative of white- and black -dominated readerships, suggesting that Mbeki's anti-west scapegoating rhetoric was not effective at least within newspaper coverage.
Szu, Yenfang, "The coverage of AZT and its potential role in the social amplification of risk in English-language newspapers of South Africa" (2010). Graduate Theses and Dissertations. 11514.