The Mediated Amplification of a Crisis: Communicating the A/H1N1 Pandemic in Press Releases and Press Coverage in Europe

Constanze Rossmann, Lisa Meyer, Peter J. Schulz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations

Abstract

In the aftermath of the A/H1N1 pandemic, health authorities were criticized for failures in crisis communication efforts, and the media were accused of amplifying the pandemic. Considering these criticisms, A/H1N1 provides a suitable case for examining risk amplification processes that may occur in the transfer of information from press releases to print news media during a health crisis. We integrated the social amplification of risk framework with theories of news decisions (news values, framing) in an attempt to contribute to existing research both theoretically and empirically. We conducted a quantitative content analysis of press releases disseminated by health and governmental authorities, as well as the quality and tabloid press in 10 European countries between March 2009 and March 2011. Altogether 243 press releases, 1,243 quality press articles, and 834 tabloid press articles were coded. Consistent with research on news values and framing the results suggest that quality and tabloid papers alike amplified A/H1N1 risks by emphasizing conflict and damage, presenting information in a more dramatized way, and using risk-amplifying frames to a greater extent and risk-attenuating frames to a lesser extent than press releases. To some extent, the quality and tabloid press differed in how risk information was presented. While tabloid press articles seemed to follow the leading quality press with regards to content and framing of health crisis coverage, they exhibited a stronger emphasis on drama and emotion in the way they presented information.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)357-375
Number of pages19
JournalRisk Analysis
Volume38
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2018

Keywords

  • Framing
  • news values
  • press coverage
  • press releases
  • social amplification of risk

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