The Covid-19 News Narrative: The Case of Italian Media

Proceedings of The 4th International Conference on Modern Approach in Humanities and Social Sciences

Year: 2021


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The Covid-19 News Narrative: The Case of Italian Media

Luca Serafini



The aim of this work is to study news narratives on the Covid-19 pandemic in Italy. Its point of departure is the accusation that scholars and institutions such as the WHO levelled against media outlets around the world for creating a drift defined as “infodemic”: too many news items in circulation that are not properly verified or are deliberately misleading. During the pandemic, media outlets in Italy as elsewhere were accused of oversimplifying messages from the scientific community and experts, creating effects such as undue alarmism in the population. I will assess the accuracy of this accusation by analysing articles published in Italian news outlets, focusing specifically on elements in news narratives whose conformation makes them prone to a high degree of simplification: namely, headlines and ancillary content such as teasers appearing in social networks. As I will show, even in the context of the pandemic, distinctions must be made between unwarranted journalistic simplifications, which border on unfounded news, and simplifications that, on the contrary, allow content in the public interest to reach a larger number of readers, thus heightening the level of awareness of pandemic-related issues. My thesis is that in the context of the digital public sphere, linguistic and conceptual simplification is sometimes necessary, and that it is therefore appropriate to distinguish between cases that produce beneficial effects for public understanding of a phenomenon such as Covid-19 from those that can be classified as infodemic.

keywords: coronavirus, headlines, infodemic, Italy, newspapers.