Is the press properly presenting the epidemiological data on COVID-19? An analysis of newspapers from 25 countries

J Public Health Policy. 2021 Sep;42(3):359-372. doi: 10.1057/s41271-021-00298-7. Epub 2021 Aug 2.


We conducted a cross-sectional study to assess how the top 3 highest circulation newspapers from 25 countries are comparing and presenting COVID-19 epidemiological data to their readers. Of 75 newspapers evaluated, 51(68%) presented at their websites at least one comparison of cases and/or deaths between regions of their country and/or between countries. Quality assessment of the comparisons showed that only a minority of newspapers adjusted the data for population size in case comparisons between regions (37.2%) and between countries (25.6%), and the same was true for death comparisons between regions (27.3%) and between countries (27%). Of those making comparisons, only 13.7% explained the difference in the interpretation of cases and deaths. Of 17 that presented a logarithmic curve, only 29.4% explained its meaning. Although the press plays a key role in conveying correct medical information to the general public, we identified inconsistencies in the reporting of COVID-19 epidemiological data.

Keywords: COVID-19; Coronavirus; Epidemiological data; Media; Newspaper; Press.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Global Health* / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Newspapers as Topic* / standards
  • Newspapers as Topic* / statistics & numerical data