A time series analysis was used to investigate: (1) whether a significant increase in news coverage of South Africa occurred during the critical years of 1979–1985; (2) whether the geographic origin and/or sociopolitical impact of events, rather than deaths per se, caused the increase; and (3) the manner in which the increase occurred. Results indicated that two symbolic events (i.e., a series of riots in twenty-one South African townships, internal to South Africa; and the awarding of the Nobel Prize to Bishop Desmond Tutu, external to South Africa) cumulatively were responsible for a significant rise in news coverage of South Africa. The relationship of these symbolic sociopolitical events to the forces that shape short-term news headlines and long-term social change in general, including the imminent demise of apartheid in particular is discussed.

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