Mainstream News Media’s Role in Public Health Communication During Crises: Assessment of Coverage and Correction of COVID-19 Misinformation

May O. Lwin, Si Yu Lee, Chitra Panchapakesan, Edson Tandoc

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations

Abstract

Public health crises like the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic appear to be the perfect breeding ground for misinformation. As influential information sources, mainstream news media have a unique opportunity to use their platform to debunk and educate the public about misinformation. Despite evidence lending support to the potential for mainstream news media to play a larger role in combating misinformation in society, empirical explorations of how they have contributed to the management of misinformation remain scant. This study aims to address these major gaps in research by investigating how mainstream news dailies gatekeep and correct COVID-19 related misinformation in Singapore. The content of 164 news articles published by the mainstream news dailies in Singapore from January 1 to April 30, 2020 on COVID-19 misinformation was analyzed qualitatively and quantitatively. Results show that the two main types of misinformation, fabricated and reconfigured misinformation, were covered almost equally by mainstream news media. Misinformation related to science and health were most frequently reported, followed by scams, and government policy. Statistically significant differences were found between how mainstream news media corrected the various types and topics of misinformation. Significant differences were also found within the various types, topics, and corrections of misinformation across the early stages of the pandemic. Taken together, these findings shed light on the critical role of mainstream news media as public education tools to correct misinformation during public health crises. From a theoretical perspective, these findings contribute to the understanding of media misinformation gatekeeping, and misinformation correction. From a practical perspective, it highlights the capacity and potential roles of the press in supporting government efforts to combat misinformation.

Original languageEnglish
JournalHealth Communication
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

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