Chapter published in:Science Communication in Times of Crisis
Edited by Pascal Hohaus
[Discourse Approaches to Politics, Society and Culture 96] 2022
► pp. 143–168
Chapter 7Communicating risks of an Anti-COVID-19 vaccine in Poland
A comparative case study of content, style and advocacy of three media outlets
This study explores how three influential Polish media outlets covered the controversy around AstraZeneca vaccine in mid-March 2021, when some EU countries (though not Poland) decided to suspend this vaccine after reports of incidents of adverse side-effects related to pulmonary embolism and thrombosis. We find that the coverage was focused on risk reporting and a relatively high level of sensationalism, which is confirmed through a content analysis and a news values discourse analysis. Given the outlets’ different editorial lines, we also trace the advocacy behind each coverage of vaccinations, and the degree to which it was politicized (as opposed to science-topicalized). We present these findings in the context of media panic theory, which is in line with research on media generated “health scares” and other crises. We interpret the results of news values analysis, pointing to high Negativity and Impact, as compatible with the risks-oriented science communication typical of the profit-seeking media companies. We conclude that journalistic practices that thrive on exaggerating risk and uncertainty may well lead to public health crises, especially when such frames get later amplified by social media.
Keywords: AstraZeneca, risk communication, public health, Poland, media panic, folk devils, health scare, uncertainty
- Risk and science communication in mainstream media
- Theoretical frame and empirical research on media panics
- Design of the study
- Gazeta wyborcza
- TVP info
- Discussion and conclusion
Published online: 10 August 2022
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