Politicization of science journalism: How Russian journalists covered the COVID-19 pandemic

Sat9  Apr02:40pm(20 mins)
Umney Theatre


Anna Litvinenko, Alexandra Borissova, Anna Smoliarova


The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has become a stress test for science journalism worldwide. In this paper, we explore the under-researched topic of the role performance of science journalists in non-democratic settings in the example of COVID-19 coverage in Russia.What role did the political factor play in their choice of sources and, overall, in reporting on the pandemic? The study is based on 23 semi-structured interviews with science journalists from the leading Russian media about their experience in covering the COVID-19 pandemic, combined with a close reading of their publications on the topic, which we have used in order to include a self-confrontational element in the interviews. Our research results support the initial assumption about the politicization of reporting on the pandemic in Russia. We identify three major types of limitations of a political nature reported by journalists: (1) editorial guidelines; (2) accessibility and self-censorship of sources; (3) self-censorship. Manifestation of these three types of limitations differ depending on the political orientation of media outlets as well as on the aspect of the topic. Drawing on our findings, we discuss the politicization of COVID-19 reporting in a non-democratic context, as well as the influence of universal trends and contextual factors in science journalism.

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