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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 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. Focusing on the COVID-19 pandemic, the research delves into current communication strategies of the health authorities 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. Who should you listen to when different measures are suggested to combat the crisis? And what happens when health issues are balanced against other social and economic issues? 


The main goal of the project is to create a better understanding of the conditions and challenges of risk and crisis 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



Selected publications

Published May 23, 2019 8:38 AM - Last modified Feb. 28, 2022 6:37 PM