After analyzing around 3,000 pieces of news about Covid-19 from all paper editions of the PÚBLICO and Jornal de Notícias newspapers last year, a group of media researchers believe that “journalism has been an effective means of combating the pandemic”. Since March of last year, the intensity of the infection has decreased when the newspapers covered more about the pandemic.
The description comes from Felisbela Lopes, a researcher at the University of Minho and coordinator of the study on coverage of Covid-19 in the media. She argues that these results show that the deflation announcement that António Costa will make this Thursday needs to be prepared in terms of communication in order to have a positive effect on Portuguese society. Researchers Rita Araújo (CSCS / University of Minho), Olga Magalhães (CINTESIS), Clara Almeida Santos and Ana Teresa Peixinho (University of Coimbra) and Catarina Duff Burnay (Catholic University) also took part in the study.
“The Prime Minister has to call the message to himself and he has to make it clear. If the missing definition takes place gradually, António Costa must indicate how many phases there will be, announce the measures of the first and then call himself the communication of the measures phase by phase. We cannot run the risk of government officials talking about each other in the past. “The media will reflect this confusion in government and it will be detrimental to the image that it will have to convey to the people.
In the first phase of the pandemic, between March and May, “journalism was very active, with a large number of texts and large pieces, it was proactive in finding sources and new frameworks for the pandemic. The reporting began before the state of emergency and motivated the Portuguese to comply with the detention and health regulations, ”remembers Felisbela Lopes. Compared to January and February of this year, there was three times as much news. “Then came the lack of definition and the summer and the autumn political decisions zigzagging and journalism reducing the intensity of coverage of the pandemic because the situation was not that serious.” In other words, society opened up and there were more issues to discuss, including campaigning, and “Journalism is the reflection of society”.
With the rise in cases between late December and January and the new detention center in the middle of this month, media coverage has also increased, adding to the gravity of the situation – the most extreme example being the daily news about the ambulance lines at hospitals on the doorstep , full intensive care units, approvals to force entire hospitals to devote to Covid, Portugal is considered the worst country in the world. “By waking up to the pandemic and increasing the pressure on the news, journalism made the population more proactive,” defended Felisbela Lopes.
The topics covered by the media also changed over the course of the year: from March to May, in addition to the epidemiological picture, the news focused mainly (21%) on social issues (work and education); in November and December it was national policy that weighed the most (20% versus 7% of social policy), followed by vaccine (9%). In January and February there was more “negative” news about portraits of the situation (23%), such as the number of deaths, and about education (17%) due to the closure of schools.
Another conclusion is that the number of new sources that have normalized in public space has increased significantly. Healthcare professionals and epidemiological specialists make up between a fifth and a quarter of news sources and compete with official (government) sources weighing between a quarter and a third. But even these have changed their behavior this year. They started out as “explainers” of the pandemic, but now they are also “interlocutors who put pressure” as they say when and how the restrictions can be relaxed.