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Understand corporate social responsibility from an agenda setting perspective: a cross-national analysis of newspaper using computer-assisted content analysis

Yafei Zhang (Paul and Virginia Engler College of Business, West Texas A&M University, Canyon, Texas, USA)
Chuqing Dong (Advertising and Public Relations Department, College of Communication Arts and Sciences, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, USA)

Journal of Global Responsibility

ISSN: 2041-2568

Article publication date: 18 May 2021

Issue publication date: 25 May 2021




This study aims to explore multifaceted corporate social responsibility (CSR) covered in popular English newspapers in the UK, USA, mainland China and Hong Kong from 2000 to 2016 via a computer-assisted analytical approach. This study moves the understanding of CSR away from corporate self-reporting to the mass media and raises interesting questions about the role of the news media in presenting CSR as a multifaceted, socially constructed concept.


Data were retrieved from CSR-related news articles from 2000 to 2016 that were archived in the LexisNexis database. Guided by the theoretical framework of agenda setting, a computer-assisted content analysis (Latent Dirichlet Allocation) was used to analyze 4,487 CSR-related articles from both business and non-business news sources. Analysis of variance was used to compare salient CSR topics in each country/region.


This study identifies newspapers as an alternate to corporations’ attempts to distribute CSR information and construct CSR meaning. The findings revealed that the news communicates a variety of CSR issues that are aligned or beyond what CSR was defined in corporate CSR reporting, as suggested in previous studies. In addition, CSR news coverages differ between the business and nonbusiness news sources. Furthermore, the media tone of CSR coverage significantly differed across the regions and between the business and nonbusiness newspapers.

Social implications

Emerging topics in CSR news coverage, such as business education, could help companies identify untapped CSR realms in the market.


This study contributes to CSR communication research by adding a non-corporate perspective regarding what CSR means and should be focused on. The news media presents CSR using a heterogeneous approach as they not only provide surface reports on corporations’ CSR activities but also offer in-depth discussions.



The two authors contributed equally to the manuscript.


Zhang, Y. and Dong, C. (2021), "Understand corporate social responsibility from an agenda setting perspective: a cross-national analysis of newspaper using computer-assisted content analysis", Journal of Global Responsibility, Vol. 12 No. 2, pp. 262-286.



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