Date of Award

Summer 6-2022

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Chair

Steven Venette

Committee Chair School


Committee Member 2

John Meyer

Committee Member 2 School


Committee Member 3

Eura Jung

Committee Member 3 School


Committee Member 4

Jae-Hwa Shin

Committee Member 4 School


Committee Member 5

Kyna Shelley

Committee Member 5 School



This study examines the narratives that were presented in Chinese and American media by using Dr. Li Wenliang (one of the first people who tried to raise the alarm about the outbreak of COVID-19), and the COVID-19 origin controversy as case studies to understand how these news stories conflicted and which tellings became dominant. The way these two cases have been depicted in the media has changed over time. Understanding how that depiction changed is important because it helps demonstrate how narratives function to frame crises. The current study uses narrative, and framing theories to support thematic analysis of news articles. Observing how a narrative changes allows for a more nuanced perspective of how crises are communicated and understood by the community. Three major themes emerged from the media narratives of Dr. Li Wenliang both in China and the United States: rumormonger, whistleblower and politicized icon, and martyr. Five major themes the U.S. and China were debating were uncovered related to the origin of COVID-19: natural cause, lab-leak conspiracy, U.S. army conspiracy, WHO’s investigation role, and no clear source. The findings identify internal and external sources of pressure that can cause the media to change their storytelling. This analysis suggests that recognition of the competing media narratives between the U.S. and China during times of crises is necessary to facilitate a better understanding and effective strategic communication with each other.