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Subject: AEJ 05 TianS INTL Framing the SARS Outbreak: A Comparative Study of Press Coverage in the Peoples Daily and the New York Times
From: Elliott Parker <[log in to unmask]>
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Date:Sun, 5 Feb 2006 13:21:06 -0500
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This paper was presented at the Association for Education in Journalism and
Mass Communication in San Antonio, Texas August 2005.
         If you have questions about this paper, please contact the author
directly. If you have questions about the archives, email
rakyat [ at ] eparker.org. For an explanation of the subject line, 
send email to
[log in to unmask] with just the four words, "get help info aejmc," in the
body (drop the "").

(Feb 2006)
Thank you.
Elliott Parker
====================================================================

Framing the SARS Outbreak:
A Comparative Study of Press Coverage
in the People's Daily and the New York Times


by


Song Tian
Department of Communication
University of Louisiana at Lafayette
Lafayette, LA 70504
Tel: (337) 482 -8077
E-mail: [log in to unmask]

and

William R. Davie, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Department of Communication
University of Louisiana at Lafayette
Lafayette, LA 70504
(337) 482-6140  Fax: 337.482-6104
E-mail: [log in to unmask]

Submitted to the International Division of the Association for 
Education in Journalism and Mass Communication


Abstract

This study focuses on the SARS coverage combines two conceptual 
frameworks: framing theory and risk communication to compare how the 
elite press of China and the United States—the People's Daily and the 
New York Times--framed the SARS outbreak and its potential risks for 
public health. This study showed that there were some similarities 
but considerable differences in news frames and sources used by the 
two newspapers.  Two new frames, solution and hazard, appeared to be 
most common to the two newspapers' SARS coverage.







Framing the SARS Outbreak:
A Comparative Study of Press Coverage
in the People's Daily and the New York Times

Submitted to the International Division of the Association for 
Education in Journalism and Mass Communication


Abstract

This study focuses on the SARS coverage combines two conceptual 
frameworks: framing theory and risk communication to compare how the 
elite press of China and the United States—the People's Daily and the 
New York Times--framed the SARS outbreak and its potential risks for 
public health. This study showed that there were some similarities 
but considerable differences in news frames and sources used by the 
two newspapers.  Two new frames, solution and hazard, appeared to be 
most common to the two newspapers' SARS coverage.


INTRODUCTION
In any country, the news media's role as a disseminator of 
information increases in importance when disaster strikes. The 
mechanism by which the media present information on potential hazards 
to the public's safety can influence the perceptions of risk and 
direct activities to reduce that peril. When one lethal epidemic, 
Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), swept across East Asia, 
Southeast Asia, Canada, and other areas across the world in spring 
2003, it became clear that the news media in the global age had 
assumed a redefined role in the risk communication process. The 
reporting of risks posed geopolitical challenges as journalists faced 
difficulties in providing accurate and timely information across 
borders. It is the different methods of reporting risk from the 
context of different political economies and countries that informs 
this study. By comparing media narratives of the risk situations in 
the context of different cultures and countries, it is possible to 
obtain useful insights into the critical textual choices that frame 
the story during crises.
This study analyzes the news frames of SARS stories published by two 
of the prestigious newspapers of China and the United States, the 
People's Daily and the New York Times, and identifies the key 
elements that differentiate news frames in the context of two 
important countries in order to obtain a clear understanding of how a 
disaster story is reported in politically and culturally dissimilar countries.
Background
In 2003, pictures of a fatal epidemic labeled the Severe Acute 
Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) were broadcast worldwide. After the first 
case of SARS was detected in South China's Guangdong Province in 
November 2002, this pneumonia-like disease spread to 29 countries 
around the world within the first six months, causing more than 900 
deaths and 8,422 infections (WHO, 2003). Due to its deadly and rapid 
contagious attributes of SARS, WHO issued its first global alert 
reporting cases of severe atypical pneumonia in Vietnam, Hong Kong, 
and China's Guangdong Province on March 12, 2003.  The epidemic 
reached its peak level on June 5, 2003 in the hardest-hit country, 
China, and in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and Canada ("SARS 
epidemic," 2003).  Even though it did not mark the end of SARS, the 
WHO declared on July 5, 2003 that SARS had been contained worldwide 
after Taiwan was the last region on its list to be free of new 
infections ("SARS outbreak," 2003).
Literature Review
Media coverage on SARS

The Chinese media response to the SARS outbreak exhibited a marked 
series of changes over the months of disease migration.  When WHO 
issued its first warning against the disease in March 2003, the 
response in the Chinese newspapers appeared to reflect the official 
line that the disease had been brought under effective control 
(Anthony 2003).  The turning point appeared to come on April 20, 
2003, when the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the 
Communist Party, the highest authority in China's ruling faction, 
issued an order to openly disseminate information on the spread of 
SARS (SARS, Iraq war: Chinese Media Spurred on Revolution, 
2003).  This opened a near floodgate of reportage on the SARS 
outbreak.  The efforts to control SARS were described by the Chinese 
media as a "people's war against SARS" from various perspectives, 
including disease prevention, research on the virus and the medical 
workers who saved the lives of others while risking their own (Bai 
and Xiong, 2003).
The news coverage of SARS expanded to a lesser degree in the United 
States, where 73 probable cases and 347 suspected cases had been 
reported as of July 1, 2003 (Case update, 2003). Major news 
magazines, Time, Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report all devoted 
cover stories to the epidemic.  On April 8, 2003, Time magazine 
published a vital letter by Jiang Yanyong, a Chinese military surgeon 
from Beijing, who for the first time in the western media publicized 
and detailed the real situation about the magnitude of the SARS 
epidemic in Beijing (Jakes, 2003). Although the New York Times 
covered the SARS outbreak seriously, which shared the news agenda 
with the war in Iraq at the time, health information regarding this 
illness in the New York Times was unpacked into its various subtopics 
in a fragmented manner (Drache, Feldman & Clifton, 2003).
While the SARS outbreak triggered a wave of relevant coverage in 
Chinese and American news media, some media scholars attempted to 
explore how the media in different countries responded to the 
disease.  Wallis and Nerlich (2005) examined how the coverage of SARS 
in the U.K. press was framed and how language and metaphor were 
used.  Wallis and Nerlich demonstrated how the British media often 
used two different sets of metaphors in their framing of the SARS 
coverage:  One used the term, "killer," primarily to describe the 
nature and effect of the disease; the other was "Control," which was 
employed to discuss responses to the outbreak.
 From a comparative perspective, few researchers explored news frames 
of the SARS coverage and identified factors influencing the selection 
of news frames across countries directly affected by SARS.  For 
instance, Chang et al (2004) analyzed and compared SARS framing in 
the press media of Canada, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, China, and 
the United States.  Their study found that the context-related 
factors (e.g., organizational characteristics of media and economies) 
influenced media frames about the SARS epidemic in those selected 
nations.  Another study, conducted by Luther and Zhou (2004), 
identified that the economics, conflict, responsibility, and 
human-interest frames established in previous studies (Semetko & 
Valkenburg, 2000) were also adopted by Chinese and U.S. media to 
cover SARS stories. Their study also found that these news frames 
varied due to the distinct social structural environment across countries.
Background of the People's Daily and the New York Times

Mass media are part of the governmental institutions of China, and 
have been regarded as a link between the Chinese Communist Party 
(CCP), the government, and the people (Schell, 1995).  The 
predominant role of mainland Chinese journalism is that it serves as 
an organ of the government, and the Communist Party acts as media 
owner, manager, and practitioner (Chu, 1994).  The People's Daily is 
the most important official mouthpiece of the Central Committee of 
the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), with a current circulation of more 
than three million copies daily.  According to the United Nations 
Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), it ranks 
among the world's top 10 newspapers in readership.  As an organ of 
the CCP, its editorials directly reflect the opinions of the party's 
central authorities. Furthermore, it is responsible for propagating 
the party's political lines, policies, and goals for the Chinese 
people.  It usually sets the tone for the Chinese press on national 
and international issues (Houn, 1961).  There are certain 
proscriptions and "red lines" guiding all Chinese media, most 
significantly, the time-honored taboo of not questioning the party's 
right to rule (Media in Mainland China, 2005).
Unlike their Chinese counterparts, U.S. newspapers are expected to be 
"objective" or at least neutral and stress factual information in 
their reporting (Priest & Ten Eyck, 2003).  According to Pool (1970), 
the elite newspapers within each country are usually semiofficial, 
always in some way tied to the government and represent its 
authoritative point of view, especially on foreign policy.  Even 
though the New York Times often doesn't follow the federal 
government's line, Pool insists that it still retains the chief 
characteristics of such elite newspapers.  Established in September 
1851, the New York Times was identified as the most prestigious 
American newspaper among the top five ranking daily newspapers 
(Emery, 1983).  Over the past century, the New York Times has become 
the newspaper of record for historical events, and is one of the 
major sources of international news for Americans (Summit 
communications, 2004).
Framing Theory

Framing theory poses a scientific means for analyzing the content of 
news coverage.  Originally conceived as the second-dimension of 
agenda setting, Entman (1993), defined framing as the news process of 
selecting "some aspects of a perceived reality," and making them 
"more salient in a communicating text, in such a way as to promote a 
particular problem definition, causal interpretation, moral 
evaluation and/or treatment recommendation" (p. 53).  In general, 
framing involves the organization and packaging of information by 
selection and salience.
Tuchman (1978) argued that journalists make sense of the world by 
creating frames that involve two processes: "an occurrence is 
transformed into an event" and "an event is transformed into a news 
frame" (p. 193). Other studies explained the conceptualization and 
operationalization of framing by examining key variables in the 
message and audience. According to Entman (1991), news frames exist 
as specific properties of the news narrative that are embodied in the 
key words, metaphors, concepts, symbols, and visual images emphasized 
by the stories.
A number of studies focus on media frames in order to examine how the 
frame used gives meanings to the issue or event being presented 
(e.g., Entman, 1993; Semetko & Valkenburg, 2000).  These studies 
agree on the fact that there are a number of recurrent frames in 
media coverage, although news may be framed in different ways.  For 
instance, Semetko and Valkenburg (2000) investigated five major 
frames which appear commonly and are repeated in news coverage over 
time: attribution of responsibility, conflict, human interest, 
economic consequences, and morality.  Following is the abbreviated 
description of each of the five frames:
The attribution of responsibility frame reveals a problem, and 
attribute responsibility for its cause or solution to either the 
government or to an individual or group.  The conflict frame 
"emphasizes conflict between individuals, groups, or institutions as 
a means of capturing audience interest" (Semetko & Valkenburg 2000, 
p. 95).  Neuman, et al. (1992) argued that the routines of news 
making encourage the media to use the conflict frame to attract 
audience interest.  The human-interest frame brings a human face, an 
individual's story, or "an emotional angle to the presentation of an 
event, issue, or problem" (Semetko & Valkenburg 2000, p. 95). This 
frame personalizes and emotionalizes the news.  The economic 
consequences frame emphasizes how events can be covered in terms of 
the financial impact it will have on the public.  The morality frame 
puts the event, issue or problem in the context of religious tenets 
or ethical prescriptions.
Semetko and Valkenburg's study (2000) showed that the attribution of 
responsibility and conflict frames were most commonly used in the 
presentation of news, especially by serious newspapers and television 
news programs, followed by the economic consequences, human interest, 
and morality frames, respectively.  The use of the five categories of 
frames not only helps the receiver of the news think and talk about 
issues or events in some certain way but also provides researchers 
with an approach to do testable and comparable research.
Norris (1995) suggested that the framing process is dynamic and the 
dominant news frames change and evolve over time in American news 
coverage of international affairs.  Other studies found that the 
framing of news is often influenced by a variety of intrinsic and 
extrinsic factors involving individual, societal and cultural norms 
(Tuchman, 1978). Shoemaker and Reese (1996) argued that at least five 
factors influence how journalists frame an issue: social norms and 
values; organizational pressures and constraints; pressures of 
interest groups; journalistic routines; and the ideological or 
political orientations of journalists.
Risk Communication

Risk communication is defined as "an interactive process of exchange 
of information and opinions among individuals, groups, and 
institutions concerning a risk to human health or the environment" 
(National Resource Council, 1989). This research addresses how 
individuals, groups or organizations frame the world by presenting

scientific evaluations of risks.
Risk communication is a complex and evolving process of increasing 
importance in protecting the public's health (Prevention report, 
1995). The application of it starts with a potential or actual hazard 
or danger, and an assessment of that hazard.  Public health officials 
considered the news media as a vital vehicle for epidemic-prevention 
in that it is a quick and effective method of disseminating important 
information and messages (Mercado-Martinez et al, 2001). Therefore, 
media coverage of epidemics and those affected by the disease can 
influence public perceptions of personal risk. Tversky and Kahneman's 
(1974) studies further indicated that continual media reporting of a 
hazard can increase the ability to recall the risk.
Some media scholars who have studied news media's coverage of risk 
have challenged the quality of this type of communication in the news 
media.  Wilkins and Patterson (1987) examined news coverage between 
1984 and 1985 of the Bhopal (toxic chemical) and Chernobyl (nuclear) 
disasters that caused deaths and injuries in India and the former 
Soviet Union.  Their study found that news media often commit 
underlying errors of attribution when covering risk situations in 
that journalists treat both disasters as political and novel events, 
and the coverage does not provide sufficient information and analysis 
of risk.  Other studies further demonstrated that the general public 
and the scientific community disagree on their risk perceptions. 
Jasanoff (1993) observed that non-experts and unprofessional people 
tend to unreasonably respond to risk information and do not rightly 
evaluate and interpret such hazardous information. The conflicts on 
the perception of risk information between the public and government 
officials, scientists and other relevant professionals tend to be 
deteriorated by a lack of trust in information sources and selective 
and biased news coverage by the media (Renn & Levine, 1991; Sjoberg, 2000).
Overall, risk communication takes place in the context of media 
frames. Risk frames can have a significant impact on the 
understanding of risk and the decision-making process (Slovic et al., 
1984). Through such frames, media make certain points prominent and 
ignore others while reporting news events and explaining how they are 
to be understood (Entman, 1993). For instance, a pandemic disease's 
potential risk to the public can be highlighted while its potential 
economic impact is ignored depending on different story frames. By 
using content analysis, the phenomena of how the media frame the 
epidemic in the context of risk communication can be systematically studied.
HYPOTHESES & RESEARCH QUESTIONS
This study mainly adopted the categories of frames identified by 
Semetko and Valkenburg (2000) with two modifications. In our pretest 
sample of 20 stories, there were no stories falling into the morality 
frame, while more items were related to risk and risk assessment of 
the potentially fatal illness.  The morality frame thus was 
eliminated in favor of the hazard frame for the purposes of this 
analysis.  The researcher also looked at the SARS pretest stories and 
noticed that a large sample focused on how health experts, government 
or other institutions solved problems related to the 
epidemic.  Therefore this study used the solution frame to replace 
the responsibility frame in order to more clearly and accurately 
describe the coverage.
Based upon the review of the previous literature about framing theory 
and risk communication, this study proposed the following hypotheses:
H1. The solution frame would be used more often in the People's Daily 
than in the New York Times.
The solution frame was adapted from the attribution of responsibility 
frame identified by Semetko and Valkenburg (2000) in order to 
underscore the efforts to resolve related problems or issues during 
the SARS crisis by the government, specific individuals or 
groups.  The SARS outbreak first struck Asia, and specifically China, 
before it spread to other areas in the world. Therefore, the People's 
Daily would be more likely to report on how to cure and control the 
disease. By contrast, the New York Times might be less inclined to 
report how authorities in other countries were waging the fight 
against the SARS outbreak in the world.
H2. The human-interest frame would be used more in the People's Daily 
than in the New York Times.
According to Semetko and Valkenburg (2000), the human-interest frame 
brings a human face, an individual's story, or an emotional angle to 
the presentation of an issue or problem.  Because most of the SARS 
cases were reported by China, the readers of the People's Daily would 
be expected to ask how many Chinese had been infected with the SARS 
virus, while the New York Times readers would be presumably less 
concerned with individuals or poignant narratives regarding foreign citizens.
H3. The economic consequences frame would be used more often in the 
New York Times than in the People's Daily.
The economic consequences frame emphasizes the future financial 
consequences of the event (Semetko & Valkenburg, 2000). The New York 
Times would be able to devote more time to thinking about and 
analyzing the economic impact of the SARS outbreak, while the Chinese 
press leader would tend to avoid that perspective.
H4. The conflict frame would be used more often in the New York Times 
than in the People's Daily.
The conflict frame emphasizes divisions between individuals, groups, 
or institutions often in order to capture the audience's interest 
(Semetko & Valkenburg 2000).  The New York Times would tend to focus 
more on criticizing the Chinese government for its lack of 
disclosure, while the People's Daily would be less likely to 
criticize official reports released in Beijing, or to reflect on the 
disagreements or divergence of opinions between the government and 
prominent individuals.
H5. The hazard frame would be used more often in the New York Times 
than in the People's Daily.
The hazard frame concerns risk and risk assessment of the SARS 
outbreak. The western media were criticized by some media scholars 
for distorting the nature of the disease with coverage focusing on 
certain negative aspects. Therefore, the New York Times would have 
devoted more time and space to report on risks of the SARS outbreak 
while the People's Daily would be more likely to reassure its readers 
with articles suggesting that the government was on its way to 
controlling the epidemic.
This study also asked the following research questions:
RQ1. Did the dominant frames of coverage of SARS in the People's 
Daily and the New York Times change during different stages of the 
crisis?  Previous studies showed that themes of news coverage in the 
media changed over time; emphasis on a theme or issue can be 
determined by its number, length and story order (Norris, 1995). 
Ungar (1998) suggested that news frames could be changed by 
journalists while dread events are developing in unforeseeable and 
threatening ways.
RQ2. How does the use of sources in the coverage of SARS by the 
People's Daily and the New York Times.  News sources played a key 
role in the framing of information. Shoemaker and Mayfield (1987) 
found that the types of sources used by reporters are influenced by 
social and institutional pressures within and outside the news 
organization. Considered differences of the media systems between 
China and the United States, the People's Daily would be expected to 
use more news sources by government officials than the New York 
Times, which is more likely to cite health experts and non-government 
organizations, such as the WHO, as the primary sources of SARS information.

METHODOLOGY
Selection of Sample

The People's Daily and the New York Times were selected for this 
study because they represent the most prestigious newspapers in China 
and the United States. All SARS stories from March 12 to July 6, 2003 
in the two newspapers were collected and coded. March 12 is the date 
that SARS captured worldwide attention when the first global alert 
was issued by the World Health Organization. On July 5, 2003, the 
World Health Organization declared that the SARS outbreak had been 
contained, and it removed Taiwan from the list of affected areas (WHO, 2003).
The basic unit of analysis for this study is the news story. Of all 
the stories related to SARS, only fact-based reports focusing on the 
SARS outbreak and directly related aspects were included. News in 
brief, photographs, graphics, illustrations, editorials, op-ed 
pieces, letters to the editor, very short stories with less than 100 
words, and articles that made only passing reference to the disease 
were excluded.
In the case of the New York Times, the full-text search engine of the 
Lexis/Nexis, the "Major Papers" library database was used to collect 
the SARS articles. The operational definition for the sample was any 
article containing the keywords "severe acute respiratory syndrome" 
or its acronym "SARS" in the headline or lead. This procedure 
produced a sample of 271 articles, excluding approximately 340 less 
pertinent articles within a total data set of 610 articles.
In order to analyze the People's Daily, full texts of all relevant 
stories were downloaded for the sample from the People's Daily online 
archives. The keywords "Fei Dian Xing Xing Fei Yan" (atypical 
pneumonia) as well as its abbreviation "Fei Dian" were used to search 
for relevant stories. It was necessary to use distinct keywords in 
searching the People's Daily because the respiratory illness, 
commonly known as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in the 
United States, was described as "atypical pneumonia" in China. It did 
not carry the SARS label in that country. Among of the total of 2,740 
articles, a number of irrelevant texts such as prose, poems as well 
as other material unsuitable for this study were eliminated from the 
analysis. This procedure produced a sample of 489 fact-based stories 
focusing on the SARS outbreak.
Sources of Information

The analysis also examined the sources used by journalists, 
tabulating the first source attributed in each article. With a coding 
manual that explicitly defined each source, these articles were 
classified according to the following seven types: (1) government; 
(2) non-government organizations (NGOs); (3) health expert; (4) 
patients; (5) patients' friends and/or families; (6) business and 
finance; and (7) other.
Framing Measures

Based upon the study of Semetko and Valkenburg (2000), the following 
five news frames were used to code each story: solution, conflict, 
human interest, economic impact, and hazard. Detailed operational 
definitions for the conflict, human interest, and economic impact 
frames were guided by a series of 11 questions adapted from Semetko 
and Valkenburg's (2000) study while the solution and hazard frames 
were measured by five questions established for each frame.
Solution frame: This frame was measured by affirming the following 
questions: Does the story emphasize or suggest there is a possible 
cure or solution to the spread of the disease or its other harmful 
effects? Does the story identify what entity (government, 
health/science institutions) should take responsibility for affecting 
this solution? Does the story suggest the specific action(s) that 
individuals, groups or organizations could take to deal with the 
problem? Does the story suggest why the problem requires these urgent 
action(s)? Does the story suggest any progress made in terms of 
affecting these solutions?
Conflict frame: This frame was measured by three questions: Does the 
story reflect disagreement between 
parties–individuals–groups-countries? Does one 
party-individual-group-country reproach another? Does the story refer 
to two sides or to more than two sides of the problem or issue?
Human interest frame: This frame was measured by five questions: Does 
the story provide a human example or "human face" on the issue? Does 
the story employ adjectives or personal vignettes that generate 
feelings of outrage, empathy-caring, sympathy, or compassion? Does 
the story emphasize how individuals and groups daily activities have 
been changed by the issue/problem? Does the story delve into the 
private or personal lives? Does the story contain visual information 
that might generate feelings of worry, sympathy, or compassion?
Economic consequences frame: This frame was measured by three 
questions: Is there a mention of financial losses or gains now or in 
the future? Is there a mention of the costs or degree of expenses 
involved? Is there a reference to the economic consequences of 
pursuing or not pursuing a course of action?
Hazard frame: This frame was measured by five questions: Does the 
story emphasize the dangers or hazardous effects of the illness? Does 
the story contain anxious messages detailing these effects? Does the 
story measure the extent of the impact in terms of harmful 
consequences? Does the story contain references to deaths and 
casualties? Does the story suggest the problem is without specific 
solutions other than avoidance?
Data Treatment and Analysis

For testing instrument reliability, a pilot study was conducted to 
prove the operational measures. Specifically, ten percent of the full 
sample from each newspaper was randomly selected, and statistically 
compared by two graduate students within the social sciences who were 
native Chinese speakers. The two coders agreed upon the frame 
selection for 62 of 76 articles, yielding a reliability coefficient 
of .816. For the variable of news source, intercoder agreement was 
achieved for 68 of 76 articles, yielding a .895 reliability 
coefficient. Scott's pi corrects for the possible disagreement 
between coders, which ranged from .69 to .78 over the two variables.
This study used 27 undergraduate students in the Department of 
Communication at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette to code 271 
New York Times articles. Two graduate students who were native 
Chinese speakers also were selected for coding the People's Daily 
articles. Each article was assigned to only one frame based on the 
operational measures of the five identified frames for this study.
RESULTS

A total of 760 stories were analyzed for the use of framing and 
sources in both newspapers. This study found a few similarities and 
significant statistical difference in the categories of frame and 
sources used. The People's Daily mainly adopted the solution frame 
(365) and the human-interest frame (64) to cover the SARS outbreak. 
During the same time period, the three most frequent frames of the 
SARS outbreak in the New York Times were solution (86), hazard (63), 
and economic consequences (57). (See Table 1).
[TABLE 1 ABOUT HERE]
H1. The solution frame would be used more often in the People's Daily 
than in the New York Times.
Solution framing of SARS stories focused on the subject matter 
relating to efforts to resolve problems or issues on the illness, 
such as a topic of SARS isolation and quarantine or other actions 
taken by the Chinese government to prevent the spread of SARS.  The 
findings indicated that solution was the primary frame of the 
coverage of the SARS outbreak for both the People's Daily and the New 
York Times.  However, there were significant differences in the 
solution-framed stories between the two newspapers.  Nearly 
three-fourths (74.6 percent) of the coded articles in the People's 
Daily used the solution frame, whereas only about one-third (31.7 
percent) of the New York Times stories adopted the solution frame to 
cover the illness.  A two-tailed t-test was conducted to examine 
whether there were significant differences in the solution-frame 
stories between the People's Daily and the New York Times.  The 
result was a significant difference at the p<.001 level (t=11.53, 
df=758, p<.001). Therefore, hypothesis 1 was strongly supported. (See 
Figure 1).
[FIGURE 1 ABOUT HERE]
H2. The conflict frame would be used more often in the New York Times 
than in the People's Daily.
The conflict frame emphasizes conflict between individuals, groups, 
or institutions in order to attract audience interest. Although other 
researchers in studies of media framing found conflict narratives to 
be commonly used by serious newspapers (Semetko & Valkenburg, 2000), 
only 13 articles (2.7 percent) of the stories coded in the People's 
Daily used the conflict frame. Five of those stories covered the 
divergence of opinion between mainland China and Taiwan, which was 
triggered by opposition of China to cooperation between the WHO and 
Taiwan. As can be seen in figure 2, the New York Times preferred the 
conflict frame (41 articles, 15.1 percent), although it was not 
predominant in the coverage. The result of a two-tailed t-test run to 
test hypothesis 2 indicates that the difference was significant at 
the p<.001 level (t=-6.4, df=758, p<.001) between the conflict-frame 
stories of two newspapers. Thus, hypothesis 2 was supported.
[FIGURE 2 ABOUT HERE]
H3. The human-interest frame would be used more in the People's Daily 
than in the New York Times.
Figure 3 shows that a slightly higher percentage of the 
human-interest frame used by the People's Daily than by the New York 
Times. Specifically, 13.1 percent of the SARS stories in the People's 
Daily adopted the human-interest frame while 8.9 percent of articles 
in the New York Times used the same frame. A two-tailed t-test was 
conducted to test whether there were differences in the 
human-interest-frame stories between the People's Daily and the New 
York Times. As Figure 3 indicated, the t-test result was not 
statistically significant (t=1.75, df=758, p>.001).  Therefore, 
hypothesis 3 was not supported. However, it is important to note that 
there were significant differences in the content of the 
human-interest articles in the two newspapers. About four-fifths of 
the human-interest articles in the People's Daily included an 
individual's account of how to make efforts to fight against SARS, 
especially among medical practitioners or Communist Party members. In 
contrast, human-interest articles in the New York Times seldom 
highlighted efforts taken by an individual to combat the disease in 
concert with others. Instead, these articles tended to emphasize how 
the disease influenced people's personal choices or actions.
H4. The economic consequences frame would be used more often in the 
New York Times than in the People's Daily.
The results for Hypothesis 4, which predicted that the New York Times 
would have a higher percentage of articles adopting the economic 
consequences frame than the People's Daily, are displayed in Figure 
4. Even though the spread of SARS deeply influenced China's economy 
especially in terms of public consumption and tourism, less than ten 
percent (8.2 percent) of the articles in the People's Daily applied 
the economic consequences frame to discuss the SARS 
crisis.  Dissimilarly, the New York Times preferred the economic 
consequences frame (21 percent) as compared to the People's Daily 
reports on SARS' impact on the Chinese economy and other regions and 
countries around the world. The result of a two-tailed t-test showed 
that the difference was statistically significant at the p<.001 level 
(t=-5.09, df=758, p<.001). Therefore, hypothesis 4 was supported.
[FIGURE 4 ABOUT HERE]
H5. The hazard frame would be used more often in the New York Times 
than in the People's Daily.
         The results of Hypothesis 5, which predicts that the 
People's Daily would be less likely than the New York Times to employ 
the hazard frame, are displayed in Figure 5. The results strongly 
support this hypothesis at a level of p<.001 significance (two-tailed 
t-test, t=-9.96, df=758, p<.001). While nearly one-fourth (23.2 
percent) of the stories in the New York Times adopted the hazard 
frame to depict the epidemic, only 7 articles (1.4 percent) in the 
People's Daily gave prominence to the dangers of the disease. In 
other words, the obvious frame of SARS as a hazard was the least 
likely one to appear in the People's Daily. In contrast, the hazard 
frame was the second one in the New York Times. Furthermore, a number 
of hazard-frame articles in the New York Times contained facts 
detailing the dangers or hazardous effects (55.6 percent), anxious 
messages (65.8 percent), and deaths or casualties (40.5 percent).
[FIGURE 5 ABOUT HERE]
RQ1. Did the dominant frames of the SARS coverage in the People's 
Daily and the New York Times change during different stages of the crisis?
         This study examined the evolution of the main frames of the 
SARS coverage in the two newspapers during three periods of the SARS 
crisis: initial period (March 12, 2003-April 20, 2003), middle period 
(April 21, 2003-June 5, 2003), and final period (June 6, 2003- July 
6, 2003). Two significant events were used to divide these periods: 
the turning point of the SARS crisis due to the end of the Chinese 
government's information blockade (April 20, 2003) and the peak of 
SARS worldwide as pronounced by the WHO (June 5, 2003).
Figure 6 indicates the solution frame dominated the news of SARS in 
the People's Daily across three periods although the percentage of 
this type of coverage decreased as events unfolded. The use of 
human-interest frames across different periods were less significant 
than the economic consequences frame: The coverage with the 
human-interest frame slightly increased and peaked after two Chinese 
top officials were fired on the spot for a breach of duty on April 
20, 2003, then fell slightly after June 5, 2003. Conversely, the 
economic consequences frame increased quickly to nearly one-sixth 
after the peak of SARS passed on June 5, 2003, and replaced for the 
human-interest frame as the second most common frame of coverage.
[FIGURE 6 ABOUT HERE]
For the New York Times, use of the solution frame increased when 
concern arose over the possible infection and expansion of SARS after 
March 12, 2003, but decreased after SARS news peaked on June 5, 2003 
(see Figure 7). It indicates that cure or prevention of this illness 
was given greater attention after the WHO issued its first global 
alert about the SARS epidemic, but the newspaper's attention tended 
to shift from the solution frame after SARS hit its peak on June 5, 
2003. Both the hazard and conflict frames decreased gradually while 
the economic consequences frame increased over time in the New York 
Times. Specifically, more than one-fourth (28.6 percent) of the news 
items appeared to frame the mysterious new disease as a hazard before 
April 20, 2003; this slightly fell to fewer than one in five stories 
(19.2 percent) after the disease passed the peak. It is important to 
note that the hazard frame was more commonly used than the solution 
frame in the New York Times before April 20, 2003. It indicates that 
news coverage was more likely to attribute hazard to the mysterious 
new disease in the early time period rather than in later periods. 
The economic- consequences stories increased to become the secondary 
frame of the SARS coverage in the New York Times after the epidemic 
in China was reported to the public by the government after April 20, 2003.
[FIGURE 7 ABOUT HERE]
RQ2. How does the use of sources in the coverage of SARS by the 
People's Daily and the New York Times?
The second dimension of analysis was the sources used in the 
articles. This study adopted the first source in the story as the 
primary source. One of the obvious differences in sources between the 
People's Daily and the New York Times was the use of the government 
as a source. As can be seen in Table 2, government sources dominated 
the People's Daily stories, accounting for 62.8 percent of the total 
sources. Although relied upon less than the government, health 
experts (16.6 percent) were the secondary sources found in the 
People's Daily. These included physicians, specialists, herbalists, 
nurses, therapists and other health practitioners. Business spokes 
people (8.38 percent) and non-government organizations (7.6 percent) 
were also sources for these articles. The People's Daily rarely used 
patients (2.2 percent) as sources. Patients' relatives and/or friends 
appeared only 4 times in the coverage of the People's Daily.
[TABLE 2 ABOUT HERE]
The sources of the New York Times were quite dissimilar to the 
People's Daily. The New York Times used more non-government 
organizations (25.1 percent) and health experts (24.4 percent) than 
did the People's Daily. This is to be expected given the fact that 
WHO was one of the non-government organizations that served as 
channel of the SARS information flow at the time. The newspaper also 
quoted government (21.8 percent), but much less than the People's 
Daily. Conversely, business and finance readers (16.2 percent) were 
cited as sources more than the People's Daily. The New York Times, in 
consonance with the People's Daily, seldom used patients (5.2 
percent) and their relatives and/or friends (3 percent) as sources. 
Other sources such as witnesses or bystanders were also used 
infrequently by the People's Daily (1.6 percent) and the New York 
Times (4.4 percent).
DISCUSSION

This study examined how the elite press of China and the United 
States-- People's Daily and New York Times--framed the SARS outbreak 
and its potential risks on the public health. The results showed that 
there were some similarities but considerable differences in news 
frames and sources used by the two newspapers. Although both 
newspapers paid much attention on the cure or prevention of the SARS 
problem, the articles aimed toward solutions to control the epidemic 
predominated in the People's Daily and retained a much higher level 
than the New York Times. Few hazard and conflict frames were adopted 
to the SARS coverage in the People's Daily. This finding was not in 
full support of the conclusion of Semetko and Valkenburg's study 
(2000). Their research demonstrated the conflict frame as well as the 
responsibility frame was most commonly adopted by serious 
newspapers.  However, the finding in the New York Times articles was 
consistent with the study of the British media's SARS coverage by 
Wallis and Nerlich (2005), whose study showed that the western media 
tended to use two different sets of metaphors, killer and control, to 
describe the nature and potential risk of the disease as well as 
responses to the disease. In other words, the New York Times 
highlighted the risks of the SARS epidemic significantly more than 
the People's Daily. These findings are not surprising since previous 
studies showed that framing often is based on external influences 
such as social norms, organizational constraints, and interest-group 
pressures (Shoemaker & Reese, 1996). In this case, the discrepancy of 
the media systems, and the sociocultural and political boundaries 
explain the significant differences in frames used by between the two 
countries.
Given the importance of risk communication to this public health's 
understanding of such a problem, these findings demonstrate a lack of 
sufficient reporting on the knowledge of risk and hazard assessment 
by the Chinese media. This is supported by the fact that only 1.4 
percent of all coded stories of the People's Daily included the 
hazardous effects of the illness, deaths and casualties, and other 
anxious messages during the crisis.
It seems that the overwhelming solution-frame stories in the People's 
Daily served as an acceptable means for invigorating the national 
spirit and ralling the public to fight the war against SARS. For 
Chinese journalists and their organizations, it appears that the 
solution and the human-interest frames worked together to strengthen 
public support for the government. Thus, news frames not only provide 
information for the public to understand the health crisis, but also 
provide strategies by which the government could manage the affairs 
of emergency. For the People's Daily, coverage that strongly 
emphasized the government's efforts to control the epidemic seemed to 
suggest media's function of assembly and solidarity were to be 
highlighted in the health crisis.

In the further examination of the role of the elite press as an 
information disseminator, the data showed that the People's Daily 
articles heavily relied on different levels of government rather than 
health experts to reassure the public when communicating information 
on risk to the public. The media frames of the SARS coverage in both 
newspapers were tied to news sources. Using sources from the 
government, the People's Daily was much more likely to frame its 
coverage from an official point of view. The New York Times, unlike 
the People's Daily, tended to rely more on non-government 
organizations and health experts in its coverage of the disease. The 
finding that both newspapers used health experts as their secondary 
sources showed that medical professionals were viewed by both 
newspapers as trusted sources of information. This result is 
consistent with previous studies (Branstrom & Linblad, 1994). This 
study also found that government officials were more likely to be 
quoted in the solution-frame stories by both newspapers. One reason 
for this could be the fact that most of the official sources came 
from SARS-inflected countries in which the governments were taking 
actions to control the disease. This could explain why government 
sources were more likely to be tied with the solution frame. On the 
other hand, the New York Times is a western newspaper. Restrictions 
on access to the Chinese government's important statistical data of 
the SARS epidemic could create a frame quite different than a western 
newspaper. This also could explain the high percentage of the use of 
NGO sources by the New York Times.
Clearly, these findings offer quantitative data showing how the media 
in the two countries on both sides of the Pacific have indeed played 
contrasting roles in the process of risk communication. This study 
appears to support theories that organization and structure influence 
media frames (Shoemaker & Reese, 1996). The results show that 
differences in content and sources used by journalists across 
countries with different media systems affect story frames. As to 
what extent the media coverage of SARS emphasizing solution, 
conflict, human interest, economic impact, or hazard shaped public 
opinion during the crisis is still unknown. However, it is clear that 
the media in both countries conveyed different perceptions of risk to 
their audiences, and thus somehow affected the response by the 
public. In the context of the framing of the SARS outbreak in 2003, 
this study demonstrated that the distinct understandings and methods 
of reporting in the context of an epidemic conveyed different 
political and ideological impressions. The degree of those 
differences is significant in terms framing theory and risk 
communication phenomena. This is especially true in terms of the 
emerging epidemic, its high uncertainty, and potentially fatal 
consequences require effective risk communication strategies that 
will alleviate and not worsen the problem. In the case of the Chinese 
news media's coverage of SARS, that was the key question.

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