In December 2019, Chinese authorities informed the World Health Organization about a new coronavirus disease that would come to be called Covid-19. The world media began reporting on this new virus and its consequences. However, reports about Covid-19 would not appear in the European and American media until their societies became aware of both the health and economic consequences of Covid-19 in March 2020. This proposal analyzes the online media coverage of economic inequality. The goal is to understand the formation of the public agenda, based on the impact of the disease on social classes as the main factor generating greater inequality levels, in particular inequality of opportunities as the most remarkable topic during the first stage of the pandemic. According to the first results of this content analysis, the social class divide will be deepened by the pandemic. For this study, a tool was designed to analyze both the manifest and latent content of the items. Using content analysis, an analysis of news published by 33 digital media in both Europe and Latin America from March 14 to April 14, 2020 was conducted. The results of this study show that income inequality appears as the core variable of the problem, although social classes remain important. The imbalanced access to health and education public services also receives continuous coverage in the media. However, poverty as a consequence of this situation remains an uncomfortable issue and tends to be presented in an undramatized way.
However, this would only appear as a specific, focused topic in European and American media when their societies finally became aware of the health problem and a general lockdown was ordered. It was only in that precise moment that concern regarding the economic consequences of the pandemic appeared in the major media in Spain, where the lockdown and the state of alarm began on March 14, 2020. Thereafter, the different types of economic inequality were mentioned regularly. During the first month of the pandemic in Europe and America – the period on which we focus in this article – clear signals of fear regarding an economic slowdown, generalized social crisis, and higher levels of inequity were published in the major digital media of many countries.
The topic of this research is how societies can ensure everyone’s wealth and equality of opportunities, and avoid economic resources becoming concentrated in the hands of very few people at the expense of the majority of the population.
Keywords: Covid-19; Coronavirus; Pandemics; Digital media; Income inequality; Inequality of opportunities; Digital journalism; Spain; Europe; Latin America; Social classes.
From the beginning of journalism, news has been considered a commodity to be shared and exchanged in a transnational market, adopting several forms according to the use of technologies. In the industrial society, the most widespread use to put such a commodity in the market has been and is the collective work, just to employ a legal category which is, in our opinion, central for our research. News, at the same time, has been an advertisement support to reach massive audiences. When the World Wide Web appeared, in the decade of 1990, in a post-industrial society, this media suffered a deep crisis and entered a constant mutation. As it happened to some other cultural industries, such as the musical record industry, research studies (see, i.e., Boczkowski and Anderson, 2017; Boczkowski and Mitchelstein, 2013; Meikle and Redden, 2011) reveal how clearly the consumption of news (Kalogeropoulos and Nielsen, 2018) is not preferentially based on the offer of the collective works produced by media industry, but on news items themselves as unities.
Several strategies, like transmedia (see Serrano Tellería, 2016, 2017a and b, 2019 a and b), cross-media or the publication of user-generated contents, sometimes derivative works (another central legal concept, in our opinion) tend to present those news items as flexible, modular, hyperlinked, multimedia and interactive products, produced modified, derived and disseminated by many agents, including active audiences and informative sources themselves as well, as we ourselves have studied in previous research project of whom this is a natural continuation, previously needed of the intermediation provided by media which is now supplied by digital platforms.
Our proposal is based on the crisis, for better or worse, of the concept of news as a commodity, and of the industry which until this point has been in charge of its compilation, elaboration and dissemination: the mass-media industry, now known as legacy media. It is our purpose to analyse how the so-called Media Hybrid System has appeared (Chadwick, 2017), and which is the place within it for those legacy media, in a moment of more than occasional crisis for that industry and for its production system, including the crisis of journalism (and of journalist as an organized profession) as well (Shoemaker and Reese, 2014),
Through the prism of the transformation of news we intend to explain which is its lifecycle in the digital environment (the very concept of scoop is being compromised by the speed and accuracy of digital media) and, more properly, in the Hybrid Media System, following, for instance, some public issues. This is to be examined not only making an analysis of what media say, but also doing research on what people (and media) say on social networks (Pérez-Altable, Serrano-Tellería and Fernández-Planells, 2020).
It is our goal to explain which is the transformation of media industry in a hybrid media system through the prism of its main product, the news, and how the transition from the industrial society to a post-industrial one is happening.
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