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The Partisans, the Technocrats and the Watchdogs - Domestication in the media coverage of the swine flu pandemic 2009

Journal article
Authors Alessio Cornia
Marina Ghersetti
Paolo Mancini
Tomas Andersson Odén
Published in Journalism Studies
Volume 17
Issue 8
Pages 1030-1050
ISSN 1461-670X
Publication year 2016
Published at Department of Journalism, Media and Communication (JMG)
Pages 1030-1050
Language en
Keywords domestication of news; globalisation; journalism culture; media systems; political culture; swine flu
Subject categories Media and Communications


By comparing media reporting of the 2009 swine flu pandemic in Sweden, Italy, and the United Kingdom, this paper illustrates general aspects of the three countries’ journalism cultures. We argue that the coverage of a specific issue, such as swine flu, may reveal more general aspects of the place of journalism in society, i.e. the specific notions of professionalism adopted by journalists and the links between journalism and the political culture of a country. The results are related to theories of the globalisation and domestication of news. On the one side, similarities concerning the amount of media attention and the timing of the spread of the virus are seen as a confirmation of globalisation. On the other side, the way this issue was covered in the three countries reveals different interpretations of professional journalism. In Italian and British newspapers, the swine flu issue assumed political colours, and journalists questioned the government’s management of the pandemic. However, while Italian media criticism was strictly dependent on the newspapers’ political affiliation, the watchdog function of British newspapers was performed independently of political affiliation. Finally, Swedish newspapers were more focused on the technical dimensions of the issue and renounced scrutinising the authorities’ choices.

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