Date of Award

Spring 6-11-2022

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctorate of Philosophy (PhD) in Education


College of Education, Doctoral Program

First Advisor

Andrea Kayne

Second Advisor

Donna Kiel

Third Advisor

Paul Zionts


The COVID-19 pandemic swept the world in a cascade of crises, impacting every industry and individual. This study sought to analyze the prevailing narratives of higher education news coverage during the initial crisis event of COVID-19, when colleges and universities around the world closed their doors and sent students home. Historically, higher education has not been well positioned by the media in times of crisis. A tarnished reputation can lead to direct and immediate loses in enrollment, funding, rankings, selectivity of students and the financial health of an institution. The framing of media narratives plays a direct role in how that dialogue plays out and whether or not an institution can emerge unscathed. This study is a quantitative content analysis of the 169 articles published by the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today between March 5, 2020, and June 3, 2020; when the COVID-19 pandemic forced campus closures around the world. The articles were coded by generic and issue-specific frames, source attribution, tone, valence, frequency, and themes. The overwhelmingly deleterious results provide guidance for university leaders and stakeholders in the wake of future crisis events and give further evidence to the power, responsibility, and privilege of journalists, especially in times of crisis, and the importance of wielding that power responsibly.