Four keywords to understand journalism during a pandemic


Institutional Communication Service

6 April 2020

From newspapers to television, from the internet to social media, we experience an overload of information on the Covid-19 pandemic. Science journalism has become an important source to help individuals understand what is true and what is false. In this video Philip Di Salvo, a post-doc researcher at USI Institute of Media and Journalism, proposes four key words to comprehend what is happening to the media. What good practices should readers adopt?

For the first time in ages, journalism is called upon to talk about an unprecedented health an social emergency. The world of journalism is under a lot of pressure, and the press needs to convey information about the complex medical issue and at the same time provide updates on the numbers related to the spread of the disease.

The first term from which Philip di Salvo's reflection starts is infodemic, used by the World Health Organization itself to describe a situation in which the circulation of information is excessive, inaccurate, disorienting and difficult to trace back to reliable sources. The amount of information on Covid-19 is in fact impressive and often of poor quality. "The advice - underlines Di Salvo - is to rely exclusively on the voice of experts and the media who in turn rely on the latter". A first source of reference in this sense suggested by Di Salvo is the CoronaVirusFacts Alliance of, one of the most important institutions in the study of journalism in the United States.

The second keyword mentioned is panic. To avoid it the reader must be able take a breather from current news and divert the attention to what's happening in neighboring countries. As a collaborator for Wired magazine, Di Salvo suggests the podcasts made available by the editorial staff, which outline fundamental concepts about the pandemic. To these he adds other sources (in Italian) taken from the nearby Peninsula, such as the newsletter of the editorial staff of, or the data journalism of Il Sole 24 ore, which provides data taken from official sources for a closer look to trends in Italy, Switzerland and the world.

The third keyword is responsibility, both from the point of view of the journalist and of the individual. "We are all responsible for the quality of information. Information disorder, misinformation, or simply poor information: we must commit ourselves not share any of these categories, for example through social media" continues Di Salvo. In this sense, Valigia Blu, another newspaper mentioned by the researcher, has drawn up a handbook with all the reliable sources of information on the virus.

The final keyword is community, to reflect on the developments in journalism after the pandemic, which should no longer see the reader as a mere source of 'clicks'."It is an essential moment to make a change of perspective in journalism and leave behind the negative habits that have settled over time. My hope is for a re-discovery of journalism, as a mean that revolves around the concept of community: a journalism of service, less stifling, less loud, more scientific and aimed at the reader".

USI European Journalism Observatory (EJO) is mapping the impact of the pandemic on journalism in various countries around the world with a series of articles on this issue. Click here for un updated list. Philip Di Salvo, together with Antonio Nucci, have been working on the articles concerning the Italian press, interviewing some journalists and experts in the field:


Il giornalismo nella pandemia