Local TV News Coverage of Racial Disparities in COVID-19 During the First Wave of the Pandemic, March–June 2020

Yiwei Xu, Elizabeth K. Farkouh, Caroline A. Dunetz, Sravya L. Varanasi, Sophia Mathews, Sarah E. Gollust, Erika Franklin Fowler, Steven Moore, Neil A. Lewis, Jeff Niederdeppe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted health and social outcomes for people of color in the United States. This study examined how local TV news stories attributed causes and solutions for COVID-19-related racial health and social disparities, and whether coverage of such disparities changed after George Floyd’s murder, during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. We systematically validated keywords to extract relevant news content and conducted a content analysis of 169 discrete local TV news stories aired between March and June 2020 from 80 broadcast networks within 22 purposefully selected media markets. We found that social determinants of COVID-19 related racial disparities have been part of the discussion in local TV news, but racism as a public health crisis was rarely mentioned. Coverage of racial disparities focused far more attention on physical health outcomes than broader social impacts. Stories cited more structural factors than individual factors, as causes of these disparities. After the murder of George Floyd, stories were more likely to mention Black and Latinx people than other populations impacted by COVID-19. Only 9% of local news stories referenced racism, and stories referenced politicians more frequently than public health experts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)201-213
Number of pages13
JournalRace and Social Problems
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding for this work was provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Grant ID 77645.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s).


  • COVID-19 pandemic
  • Content analysis
  • Local television news
  • Racial/ethnic health disparities
  • Social determinants of health

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • News


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