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JMG's media researchers are investigating corona virus reporting

The researchers at the department of Journalism, media and communication (JMG) have been commissioned to follow the news reporting on the new corona virus (Covid-19).

Portrait of Marina Ghersetti

– This gives us unique possibilities to compare with the knowledge that we have already acquired in previous studies, says docent Marina Ghersetti, member of the research team on crisis communication – one of the key areas of research for the department at the University of Gothenburg.

– We follow and analyze the media reporting and compare it with the public view, both considering the new corona virus and previous outbreaks of infectious diseases.

At JMG there is much knowledge around news coverage at other outbreaks of biological and medical threats, for example the outbreak of diphtheria in Gothenburg in the 80s, the bird- and swine flu and Ebola.

– Our previous research shows that media often enlarge what is dramatic and sensational. That can give a picture of a situation more dangerous than it actually is, but when it comes to the new corona virus we still know so little about the risks so saying anything about how alarmist the media reporting has been is still very difficult, says Marina Ghersetti.

Thanks to the collaboration with the SOM-institute and its Citizen panel (LORE) the researchers have had the opportunity to already send out and conduct extensive surveys among the public.

Survey to 18 000

– The first survey to among 18 000 people was sent out in February and we are planning new surveys in March and May, explains Marina Ghersetti. At the same time we gather and analyze what is reported in the media.

Among other things the researchers want to examine what characterizes the picture in the media of the new corona virus:

  • How much attention has the corona virus drawn in Swedish news media?
  • Who have their say and on what conditions in the news reporting, and what aspects of the disease does it. Mainly cover?
  • What is the picture of the authorities´ preparedness and of the measures taken?
  • To what extent is the reporting alarmist or calming?
  • What image has the public formed of the corona virus?
  • To what extent has the media reporting on the corona virus been noticed på the public?
  • What confidence does the public have in the preparedness and ability for responsible authorities to deal with an outbreak of the infection in Sweden?
  • In what news media, social media and web sites does the public search for information about the corona virus?
  • What are the similarities and differences between the media reporting of the corona virus and the reporting of previous infectious disease outbreaks?

– Our study will be completed this fall and naturally we hope that authorities, politicians, journalists and others who work with crisis communication will find the results useful, says Marina Ghersetti.

Read more

About JMG´s research on the corona virus and crisis communication –

Previous publications:

  • När hoten kommer nära. Fågelinfluensa och tuberkulos i svensk medierapportering. Göteborg: JMG 2008.
  • Pandemin som kom av sig. Om svininfluensan i medier och opinion. Stockholm: MSB, 2010.
  • Ebolahotet. Bilden av en smitta i nyheter, sociala medier och myndigheternas kriskommunikation. Stockholm: MSB, 2015.