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The 2009 H1N1 pandemic narrative in newspapers distributed within Saskatoon, Saskatchewan



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It is known that disease outbreaks, either at a local or a global scale, elicit a social response from the society that it affects which follows a characteristic narrative. An epidemic narrative reflects and shapes the perception of the outbreak. An examination of the mass media provides a glimpse of the epidemic narrative that occurs alongside a disease outbreak. The primary objective of this study is to construct the 2009 H1N1 pandemic narrative from newspaper coverage available in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, with a focus on how discourse in the news changes over time and geographically. The study draws on and combines three conceptual frameworks: epidemic narrative, anchoring, and framing, in order to construct the pandemic narrative as reflected by the newspaper coverage. The three frameworks were combined to address three aspects of a narrative: 1) there are common stories for common experiences; 2) new stories relate to old stories; and 3) stories of the same experience can have multiple perspectives and interpretations. When combined, these frameworks provide a nuanced understanding and analysis of an epidemic narrative. Articles from four local Saskatoon papers, the StarPhoenix, Saskatoon Sun, Planet S, and The Sheaf and two Canadian national newspapers, the National Post and the Globe and Mail were analyzed for the study. To analyze the articles, an approach referred to as qualitative content analysis was adapted. The primary focus of this approach is on the discourse and meanings of the text. The study provides an overview of the evolving newspaper coverage of the 2009 H1N1 pandemic in newspapers distributed within Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. The findings of the study highlight the importance of meaning and how meanings are constructed and reflected with a narrative. The findings also show how the broader socio-cultural context influences a narrative. The results illustrate the difficulties with communication during a fluid and uncertain situation such as a pandemic. This work can provide a basis for communication advice for future disease outbreaks.



H1N1 pandemic, epidemic narrative, social representation, media analysis



Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Community Health and Epidemiology


Community and Population Health Science


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