The societal importance of journalistic health reporting on the COVID-19 pandemic in sub-Saharan Africa: Impressions from science and health journalism organizations

Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on health systems and economies around the world. This is particularly true for developing and newly industrialized countries that often have to deal with poverty and inadequate health systems. A greater awareness of COVID-19 and its consequences, generated and fostered by journalistic health reporting, may contribute to better preparations. The societal importance of journalistic health reporting and its challenges in sub-Saharan societies during the pandemic are examined. A qualitative research design relying on interviews with representatives of African science and health journalism organizations is employed. The results show that health reporting during health crises can provide a variety of normative functions of journalism in democracies and in autocratic developing and newly industrialized countries, but it presents many challenges for journalists and media houses. COVID-19 also offers starting points for global media assistance in strengthening and improving health reporting in the long term.

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