The swine flu pandemics in Portugal through newspaper humour

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Using semiotic and discourse analysis methodologies to uncover denotative and connotative meanings in journalism production, following Roland Barthes’s work, our research analyzed newspaper humour published in one Portuguese newspaper about the global build-up of the swine flu (H1N1) scare of 2009-2010. Results demonstrate that humour was much quicker than traditional journalistic templates to assign responsibilities and depict failures in the crisis management system, precociously suggesting that the pandemic could be just another moral panic similar to the bird flu of 2005. Through humour, newspapers stressed the cyclic nature of health risks, reducing the impact of dramatic information on the audience. It is therefore suggested that the sociological analysis of a media outlet in the context of a complex and emotional case such as the 2009-2010 pandemic implies its deconstruction layer by layer in order to obtain a clear picture of the mechanisms of social construction of reality.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)735-747
Number of pages13
JournalJournalism and Mass Communication
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2012


  • Editorial humour
  • Risk society
  • News constraints
  • Journalism


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