Timing and effectiveness of media frames reporting the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria

Research Article

Timing and effectiveness of media frames reporting the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria

DOI: 10.2989/16073614.2022.2151479
Author(s): KelvinFrancis Obitube University of Nigeria, Nsukka , Ijeoma Dorathy Ajaero University of Nigeria, Nsukka , Bestman Odeh University of Nigeria, Nsukka


This article analyses media frames employed by the Nigerian media in reporting events of the COVID-19 pandemic. It determines the linguistic choices that shaped the intentions of the media and how they aligned with the timing and effectiveness that impacted the thoughts and actions expressed by Nigerians. Agenda setting theory, framing theory and speech act theory elucidated the media practice of consciously selecting words or expressions for creating frames of news reports to achieve their desired intentions of controlling public perceptions of events regardless of the authenticity. This study adopted a mixed-method research methodology. Data were obtained from Nigerian online media reports on COVID-19, and also from a questionnaire to collect quantifiable data from 500 respondents in Nsukka metropolis in Nigeria using cluster and purposive random sampling techniques. We adopted Austin’s speech act (1962) and Bateson’s (1972) framing theories as theoretical frameworks to analyse our data. We observed the domination of frames involving assertive, declarative and directive speech acts in the Nigerian media reports to create a ‘death-sentence’ image about COVID-19 and to evoke greater belief in their stories, and fear among the public. However, with unfolding events not matching the media frames, Nigerians began to doubt the media and the government. This development showed that such media frames had outlived their effectiveness and needed to change to retain the public’s attention after their ‘optimum effectiveness duration’ had expired. The failure to change them made the public develop their counter-frames. The study, therefore, advocates a constant change of news frames to retain public attention and a review of Bateson’s framing theory to reflect societal and environmental impacts on frame effectiveness.

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