Coverage of adoloscent sexual reproductive health by Zambian newspapares: A content analysis of the Zambian Daily Mail,Times of Zambia and the Post newspapers
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The main purpose of this study was to establish the extent and quality of coverage of adolescent sexual reproductive health (ASRH) coverage by Zambian newspapers (The Post, Times of Zambia and Zambia Daily Mail newspapers) and to ascertain whether this coverage is adequate or not. The research defined adequate as having about 25% and above of the stories in a particular newspaper on a topic or subject , over a given period of time. The study was also aimed at investigating whether these newspapers have got policies in place to guide them when covering ASRH. Additionally, the study aimed at finding out how in-depth (how far) the three newspapers go when reporting ASRH and to establish the challenges that journalists from the three dailies undergo when covering this issue. Finally, the study aimed at establishing the nature of ASRH information that adolescents would like the Zambian newspapers to provide. This study employed both quantitative and qualitative research designs and a major part of it used quantitative content analysis of the three newspapers for the 2010 months of December, March, April, July and June as well as January 2011. Questionnaires, in-depth interviews, focus group discussions and desktop research were used to collect data from selected newspapers (editors and reporters), and adolescents. Research instruments used were structured questionnaires, content analysis coding sheets, semi-structured interview schedule and FGD guide.This study shows that ASRH coverage by Zambian newspapers is very low and is not given the importance or prominence it deserves. This can be seen from both the quantitative and qualitative analyses of the newspaper content which indicated that ASRH issues are given very little priority especially that only 15 articles were covered in the six months selected for analysis. After examining a total of 549 newspaper issues of The Post, Zambia Daily Mail and Times of Zambia, a total of 224 reproductive health articles were found to be the number of articles published during the selected period (six months).This means that only 15 of these articles (representing less than 7% i.e. 15/224) were ASRH articles indicating low coverage of the same. Additionally, it has been established that most of the ASRH articles did not have adolescents’ voices meaning that their opinions were not heard, considering the issues were targeted at them. Furthermore, the adolescents interviewed in the FGDs indicated that the messages or information presented in the reproductive health stories were not (youth friendly) friendly or interesting enough for them. Research findings also revealed the non-existence of policies to guide coverage of ASRH also confirms the seriousness the newspapers attach to ASRH issues. Moreover, findings show that not much prominence was given to the few ASRH articles that were published i.e. in terms of placement in the paper; most of the stories were placed in the inside pages and not as page lead or front page stories. In-depth coverage of issues though at a maximum did not really have so many stories to show for it considering that six months of coverage was being analyzed. Newspapers need to improve and increase the coverage of ASRH and give it the prominence or importance it deserves, involve adolescents when developing stories that they intend to provide them with, develop policies and strategies that will help guide their coverage of ASRH.