Preprint Article Version 1 Preserved in Portico This version is not peer-reviewed

Journalistic Denial of Death During the Very First Traumatic Period of the Italian SARS-CoV2 Pandemic

Version 1 : Received: 16 March 2021 / Approved: 17 March 2021 / Online: 17 March 2021 (16:47:47 CET)

A peer-reviewed article of this Preprint also exists.

Solomon, S.; Rostellato, D.; Testoni, I.; Calabrese, F.; Biasco, G. Journalistic Denial of Death during the Very First Traumatic Period of the Italian COVID-19 Pandemic. Behav. Sci. 2021, 11, 41. Solomon, S.; Rostellato, D.; Testoni, I.; Calabrese, F.; Biasco, G. Journalistic Denial of Death during the Very First Traumatic Period of the Italian COVID-19 Pandemic. Behav. Sci. 2021, 11, 41.

Journal reference: Behav. Sci. 2021, 11, 41
DOI: 10.3390/bs11030041

Abstract

Exactly one year ago, between February and March 2020, the SARS-CoV2 infection went from an epidemic confined to China to a worldwide pandemic that was particularly lethal in Italy. This study examined 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 was collected. The most utilized words and meanings linked to SARS-CoV2 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 one side, undue alarmism may provoke exaggerated reactions, such as moral panic, while on the other denial-based messages that minimize references to mortality may reduce safe behaviour during a pandemic.

Subject Areas

SARS-CoV2 outbreak; pandemic; Terror Management Theory; moral panic; Corriere della Sera

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