COVID-19 death news: A media dependency analysis

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2021-12
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Davis, Chelsea
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Lucht, Tracy
King, Andy J
Blankenship, Kevin
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Journalism and Communication, Greenlee School of
Abstract
Grounded in media dependency theory, this study explores Americans’ perceived threat of the COVID-19 pandemic, and how some depended upon obituaries, death stories, death toll stories and social media to make sense of the pandemic. This mixed-methods study employed textual analysis of participants’ responses to open-ended questions in a survey, as well as tests of correlation between variables. Qualitative and quantitative analysis revealed that participants depended upon obituaries, death stories and death toll stories to contend with their emotions surrounding the pandemic; wrap their minds around the death toll; understand deaths of people they both knew and did not know; and reinforce their adherence to public health protective measures. Participants with higher perceptions of threat also reported higher social media dependency than those with lower perceptions of threat, and used COVID-19 death news and social media to manage their negative emotions; process their grief; and express their frustration with those who denied the threat of COVID-19.
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