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Stars as saviors : examining news media coverage of celebrity aid after Hurricane Dorian in The Bahamas Missick, Alex Amethea


It is known that natural disasters amplify economic and social realities, exposing the vulnerability that many island nations face. Although journalists report on such disasters, at some point the news coverage may shift focus from the disaster event and its impact to which celebrities are offering aid. This study investigates how celebrities were framed by journalists during the relief efforts after Hurricane Dorian in The Bahamas in 2019. Drawing on framing theory and a qualitative textual analysis of 50 online articles published in English-language media outlets, a key news frame was identified: Celebrity Response, which emphasizes celebrity representation in a news story as the solution to the issue or problem. The study suggests that this frame reflects neocolonialist ideological patterns within the news media stories of Hurricane Dorian celebrity-initiated relief. The textual analysis also shows that four key framing mechanisms were used by journalists to construct the frame: dramatic language, which reveals how a text can impact the meaning of a news story; celebrity-centric headlines, which show how an important component in the news story structure can translate celebrity relevance as paramount in post-disaster relief; social media as validation, where social media references are used as content to validate the celebrity as a source; and source elevation, where the celebrity is granted higher placement and meaning in the news story as opposed to those experiencing the impact. The findings of this study help understand the interdependence between the ‘who’ that is impacted and the ‘who’ that is elevated in the journalism structure, exposing both a Western and neocolonialist perspective when it comes to natural disaster news reporting about post-disaster relief efforts in a developing nation. Implications for journalism studies and journalism practice are discussed.

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