Article published in:The Social Construction of SARS: Studies of a health communication crisis
Edited by John H. Powers and Xiaosui Xiao
[Discourse Approaches to Politics, Society and Culture 30] 2008
► pp. 33–52
2. A hero story without heroes: The Hong Kong government's narratives on SARS
This essay addresses a significant question in crisis communication: how should a government perform its role as the official “public narrator” in times of grave disaster? In particular, how should it report its own course of action during and after the crisis? These questions proved to be especially pressing for Hong Kong during the SARS outbreak because the Hong Kong government chose to provide the public with daily reports that highlighted the scientific basis of every step it was taking toward a solution to the crisis. However, in addition to scientifically circumspect information, the public also urgently needed action from the government that could generate stories of bold leadership, bravery in the face of adversity, and heroic accomplishments along the way to the final triumph over SARS. Such narratives were not forthcoming from Hong Kong’s official public narrators. Accordingly, this essay examines the government’s public statements during the SARS crisis and finds that they failed to provide effective hero narratives to unite the people and stimulate their fighting spirit during the epidemic.
Published online: 12 November 2008