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Pandemic Conspiracie: A Frame Analysis of German Legacy Media during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Author: Liebig, L.
Published in: Kommunikation.Medien, 15 (1), 1-28
Year: 2023
Type: Academic articles
DOI: 10.25598/JKM/2023-15.1

The distribution of conspiracy theories about the origin and existence of the virus have been flourishing and supposedly affected attitudes across the population during the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although legacy media contributes to conspiracy theories becoming a societal issue, the research about news coverage of conspiracy theories is scarce. This is not least because of journalists’ responsibility to stay “strategically silent” and not contribute to conspiracy amplification. The pandemic altered this principle, however, leading to discourse about conspiracy belief. Therefore, analysing how COVID-19 conspiracy theories have been framed by German legacy media presents an important case. The news coverage of four German legacy media during the first phases of the pandemic is approached through a manual frame analysis. Findings indicate a focus on protests against government guidelines, ideological positions of conspiracy believers, and responsibility for conspiracy dissemination that is attributed to social media platform providers and alternative media sites. This overview identifies a fear of polarisation and division of society through ideological and political conspiracy theories, which emphasises the social tensions that have been unleashed by the pandemic.

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