The mediatization of ignorance in the age of deep uncertainty

Modern medicine is full of unknowns, little is known about the impact derived from the circulation of these unknowns in news media during a health crisis. When it comes to media, ignorance shapes how and what kind of information about the process of medical knowledge is created, maintained and spread. Considering the relevance of news media in situations of deep uncertainty, we discuss the consequences of disseminating the unknown through news media in the management of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As is the case in other situations of deep uncertainty, the unknowns related to the COVID-19 pandemic have aroused a great deal of attention in the media. In our new article, we examine the coverage of the AstraZeneca vaccine controversies, drawing insights both from mediatization theory and ignorance studies. We develop a new concept called ‘the mediatization of ignorance’. In doing so, we conceptualize the procedure through which unknowns become mediatized as a three-step process that results from a combination of logics from the areas of politics, health, and science/industry. Moreover, we argue that the mediatization of ignorance may have promoted vaccine hesitancy at a moment when vaccination was crucial for addressing the COVID-19 pandemic. We conclude by suggesting the need to explore in further detail the role that ignorance plays not only in the management of the COVID-19 crisis but also in different areas of society.

Sendra, A., Torkkola, S. & Parviainen, J. (2023) AstraZeneca vaccine controversies in the media: Theorizing about the mediatization of ignorance in the context of the COVID-19 vaccination campaign. Health Communication