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Community solidarity: Press coverage of the Christchurch earthquake

Wai Yee Angela Cho, MHSc, 2012 

Abstract

The news media often play an important role in bringing people together in the face of a disaster. The purpose of this study was to look at how newsprint media, and in particular The Press, reported on loss of life and the loss of the city following the 2011 Christchurch earthquake and whether this reporting could have functioned as an avenue for developing a sense of community solidarity. This research project adopted a qualitative methodology to guide data collection and analysis. Fifty-two articles from The Press were included in the analysis, and a constructivist position was taken in the interpretation of the data. Three main themes were identified from the thematic analysis. Firstly, the theme of selfless helping included the newspaper reporting of how people from all walks of life reached out to help one another in whatever ways they could in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake. The second theme highlighted The Press reporting on the collective orchestrated efforts from across the nation that uplifted the spirits of the local community. The third and final theme identified how The Press reported on community healing and being united through grieving together. This study highlighted the potential role of the newsprint media in providing a conduit for bringing people together to grieve, endure, unify, and renew, and instill in people a sense of community solidarity in times of crisis.

Supervisor: Gillian Abel