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Pandemic Rhetoric

When more people rely on social media for their daily news, this alters the rhetorical conditions and challenges for risk communication.

Influenza vaccination – shot, medication and information

About the project

The likelihood of a pandemic outbreak like influenza is considered high in Norway. This creates a social challenge in combination with the rapid changes in the media landscape.

The research project "Pandemic rhetoric: Risk communication in a changing media landscape" meets the urgent need to understand the rhetorical conditions and challenges for risk communication in current media. The research delves into current public risk communication strategies regarding pandemics in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark.

The project investigates: 

  1. The use of different media platforms and rhetorical strategies.
  2. The media where risk is constituted and trust negotiated.
  3. How the public perceives the use of different media platforms, and the differing rhetoric surrounding pandemics.

Pandemic rhetoric draws on literature from rhetoric, risk communication, trust research and media studies. A central objective is to study the notions of ethos and the rhetorical situation where legacy media lose ground to social media. Short pathos-filled arguments might have better sway than the relatively long and complex ethos- and logos-arguments traditionally used by public authorities. This calls for new strategies carefully incorporating “the bureaucratic ethos” or perceived seriousness of the authorities.


The authorities define pandemic as an epidemic that occurs in a large area of ​​the world and that affects a large part of the population.

An increasing number of people get their news only through social media and trust is increasingly a negotiated phenomenon. The challenge is illustrated by, for instance, how some anti-vaccine Facebook groups have explicit policies to shut out pro-vaccine arguments.


The main goal of the project is to create a better understanding of the conditions and challenges of risk communication in a changing media landscape, which in turn can help in formulating fitting media and content strategies.


SAMRISK, the Norwegian Research Council


The University of Bergen, University of Roskilde, University of Örebro



Published May 23, 2019 8:38 AM - Last modified May 23, 2019 8:42 AM