“PANDEMIC PARANOIA”? AN ANALYSIS OF THE COVERAGE OF THE SWINE FLU IN NORWEGIAN NEWSPAPERS

The study analyzes how a selection of Norwegian newspapers represented the swine flu in two critical phases in 2009. The analysis suggests how the news coverage was one-dimensional. Little space was provided for critical perspectives. With some exceptions in the subscription-based Stavanger Aftenblad and Aftenposten, the newspapers barely included lay perspectives. Information from health authorities was amplified in a crisis discourse, a key function seemingly being to scare people into precautionary action. A rhetoric of fear was most pronounced in the tabloids Dagbladet and VG, whereas Aftenposten’s coverage could appear as a confusing mixture of alarming and comforting messages. However, the analysis indicates how Stavanger Aftenblad in a different way than the other papers could represent lay persons as responsible citizens. To a greater extent, Stavanger Aftenblad’s coverage lived up to dialogical ideals of risk communication and journalism.

Keywords: swine flu, news coverage, risk communication