Exactly one year ago, between February and March 2020, the COVID-19 infection went from an epidemic confined to China to a worldwide pandemic that was particularly lethal in Italy. This study examined the media accounts during that period by analysing the representation of death-related constructs in Corriere della Sera, the most widely read newspaper in Italy. A textual and thematic analysis of articles published between period A (epidemic: 23 January-22 February 2020) and period B (pandemic: 23 February-31 March 2020) was conducted using Nvivo-11. A total of 141 articles comprising 48,524 words were collected. The most utilised words and meanings linked to COVID-19 were computed. In the rank distribution, 'China' and 'virus' were the terms most frequently used in both periods. The terms 'death' and 'dead' were completely absent in period A and appeared in the 535th position in period B. The term 'dead' was used primarily to indicate the number of deceased. From a Terror Management Theory perspective, it is possible that the minimal reference to death-related issues was a reflection of death denial and a manifestation of efforts to deny death to manage terror. These findings highlight the ambiguities and ambivalence surrounding any issue pertaining to death; on the one side, undue alarmism may provoke exaggerated reactions, such as moral panic, while on the other denial-based messages that minimise references to mortality may reduce safe behaviour during a pandemic.

Journalistic Denial of Death during the Very First Traumatic Period of the Italian COVID-19 Pandemic

Solomon, S;Rostellato, D;Testoni, I;Biasco, G
2021

Abstract

Exactly one year ago, between February and March 2020, the COVID-19 infection went from an epidemic confined to China to a worldwide pandemic that was particularly lethal in Italy. This study examined the media accounts during that period by analysing the representation of death-related constructs in Corriere della Sera, the most widely read newspaper in Italy. A textual and thematic analysis of articles published between period A (epidemic: 23 January-22 February 2020) and period B (pandemic: 23 February-31 March 2020) was conducted using Nvivo-11. A total of 141 articles comprising 48,524 words were collected. The most utilised words and meanings linked to COVID-19 were computed. In the rank distribution, 'China' and 'virus' were the terms most frequently used in both periods. The terms 'death' and 'dead' were completely absent in period A and appeared in the 535th position in period B. The term 'dead' was used primarily to indicate the number of deceased. From a Terror Management Theory perspective, it is possible that the minimal reference to death-related issues was a reflection of death denial and a manifestation of efforts to deny death to manage terror. These findings highlight the ambiguities and ambivalence surrounding any issue pertaining to death; on the one side, undue alarmism may provoke exaggerated reactions, such as moral panic, while on the other denial-based messages that minimise references to mortality may reduce safe behaviour during a pandemic.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11577/3388953
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