Media Coverage During the First Wave of the COVID-19 Pandemic in Croatia

Author: Nika Đuho, Marija Žagmešter, Matea Škomrlj


The beginning of the pandemic was characterized by a lack of information and knowledge, so the need for ontological security was fulfilled via information provided by the media, scientific content and other expert systems. A pandemic should not only be viewed as a health or economic crisis, but also as a social crisis that requires an analysis of the social context, factors and actors as predictors for understanding its effects and consequences. During the pandemic, the media emerged as an important predictor of risk perception and trust between institutions and the public. We owe our perception to the media that select, omit, shape or interpret certain social phenomena in a specific way. According to the theory of mediatization, the media are viewed through the prism of their relationship with the wider social and institutional environment, so they are also key factors in the perception of individual situations and encouraging a certain type of behavior. Health Belief Model (HBM) claims that socially responsible behavior (promoted by the media) depends on the perception of risk to one’s own health and how that certain “promoted” behavior would be effective in combating the risk. Following risk theory, the interpretation of risk depends on the social context, values, interests and activities of social actors, including the media that affect the perception of risk as an objective fact, but also as a social construction (Bagić and Šuljok, 2020: 121). According to the aforementioned theories, the aim of this research was to determine the perception of media coverage and its effect on socially responsible behavior during the first wave of the pandemic, which was marked by a complete cessation of economic and social activities. The data were collected using the online survey questionnaire encompassing the period from March to July 2020. A total of 620 respondents participated in the study. The results suggest that positive perception of media coverage were primarily directed towards traditional media, such as television. Also, the results of the regression analysis suggest that a positive perception of media coverage depends on different socio-demographic characteristics and that it can be an incentive for socially responsible behavior

Key words: COVID-19, perception of media coverage, socially responsible behavior
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