Date of Graduation

8-2022

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Journalism (MA)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Journalism

Advisor

Raymond McCaffrey

Committee Member

Gerald Jordan

Second Committee Member

Kara Gould

Keywords

COVID-19, Journalism, Mental Health, Social Responsibility

Abstract

This study looks at local broadcast news reporters working in Northwest Arkansas before, at the start, and during the COVID-19 global pandemic. Research for this study includes a content study of the tweets and Twitter accounts of eleven local reporters. This study considers the social responsibility theory and examines how these eleven local reporters use the theory in their everyday work. Research found, though these reporters don’t credit the theory by name, they are still putting its guidelines into effect as a sort of moral compass when creating objective and representative news for their communities. The research also found that the COVID-19 pandemic added a sense of urgency for reporters to uphold the social responsibility theory by getting potentially life-altering news to the public in a timely manner. These reporters consider themselves as community servants, their service being educating and alerting their audience on what’s happening around them. By taking upon this role the reporters sometimes face criticism from their audience leading to the reporters needing to defend themselves and their intentions. This study explores the mental health of local reporters. These reporters don’t talk about personal mental health issues, but they often cite symptoms like fatigue and stress as being active factors in their professional and personal lives. As reporters this group is expected to be punctual and timely in all aspects of their career. They also heavily discuss safety as being an issue within the journalism world. These local reporters are often alone while they are in the field covering their stories, something that many find issue with. The local reporters support other reporters outside of the area by sharing or “retweeting” their stories and adding their opinions that advocate for the presence of another person on the scene no matter the time, place, or story being covered. When looking at self-care and self-appreciation among the reporters studied, the research found these reporters go about achieving this is many ways. Some reporters find their self-worth from within, while others turn outward to family or religion. Many of the reporters studied embrace self-appreciation by sharing life or career events with their Twitter audience. They often share work milestones which are typically met with celebration from other journalists within and outside their respective news station. Reporters exercising self-appreciation and self-care through their Twitter platform are also experiencing a sense of support from others by doing so in most cases. The global COVID-19 pandemic made up the majority of the news shared by local reporters during the studied time period. These reporters acknowledge the repetition of the stories they were producing daily. The pandemic changed the way reporters everywhere were able to do their jobs. Social distancing and the mask mandates limited face-to-face interviews and gave reporters less access to people or places than they had before. Many of these reporters used their Twitter platforms to educate the public on changes in the pandemic, while also promoting vaccination and social distancing. Some reporters shared their own vaccination experience with their followers.

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