Covid-19 Digital Research


Communication Technology and New Media


The outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic provides an opportunity to investigate several aspects of the work of local newspapers in the United States, including their ability to create original reporting, gatekeeping, the influence of chain ownership, and the possible effect of political polarization on hard news coverage. This study examines the early coverage of COVID-19 in a selection of American local newspapers in 28 states—15 Republican-dominated (“red”) and 13 Democrat-dominated (“blue”) —during January and February 2020. The local papers produced a fraction of the coverage of large, national newspapers, as their lower resource levels and local focus limited their ability to cover the initial COVID-19 outbreak. The blue-state papers had more coverage on average and got to the coronavirus story earlier on average than the red-state papers, yet the red-state papers were quicker to warn that a pandemic was possible.



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