Covid-19, Mass Media, and Science Communication: Conflicts between Italian Scientists

Proceedings of The 5th International Conference on Modern Approaches in Humanities and Social sciences

Year: 2022



Covid-19, Mass Media, and Science Communication: Conflicts between Italian Scientists

Al Taqdir Badari, Muhtosim Arief, Elidjen, and Firdaus Alamsjah



The communicative phenomena connected to the massive media coverage of scientific knowledge during the Covid-19 pandemic have often been analyzed in the public and academic debate by using terms of an immediate impact like “fake news” and “infodemic”. However, rather than look at the simple dissemination of (supposedly) unfounded or pseudoscientific news, we believe it is more profitable to shift our attention to the intertwining of the scientific and media spheres. The objective of our contribution is thus to reconstruct this intertwining through an analysis of two of the major conflicts that affected the Italian public debate during the first wave of the pandemic. Our hypothesis is that the situation of uncertainty and conflict in the interpretation of certain phenomena related to the circulation of the virus was not generated only or even primarily by the spread of false news, but was instead the result of a spiral dynamic that affected the multiple logics behind the functioning of the media, the scientific community, civil society, and politics. To explore this hypothesis we will discuss the main factors that influence scientific communication in the media and then discuss the conflicts between scientists in particular. The third and fourth sections are instead dedicated to the reconstruction of the two conflicts that are the objects of our analysis, that is the debates around the contagiousness of asymptomatic carriers of the virus and the alleged loss of potency of the virus. To this end, 819 articles were selected which include both interviews released by a list of the fifty best-known experts in Italy, and articles in which the statements provided in other contexts were reported (primarily in television interviews) and published in the primary Italian newspapers and information websites.

keywords: covid-19, scientists, conflicts, mass media.