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Using online news comments to gather fast feedback on issues with public health messaging: The Guardian as a case study

McClaughlin, Emma; Nichele, Elena; Adolphs, Svenja; Barnard, Pepita; Clos, Jeremy; Knight, Dawn; McAuley, Derek; Lang, Alexandra


Elena Nichele

Professor of English Language and Linguistics

Pepita Barnard

Dawn Knight

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Professor of Digital Economy


Elena Nichele

Pepita Barnard

Dawn Knight


This study uses corpus linguistics to analyse opinions on messaging and public health measures from one resource—comments posted in response to articles containing references to borders from The Guardian online. Overall, commenters made international, national, and regional comparisons between the and other places, which they considered to be better models for pub health (e.g., Scotland, Germany, and New Zealand). They used criticism of public health measures and guidance as a means to politicise the pandemic; some ironically adapted campaign slogans to
comment on leadership and its political decisions. Commenters did not extend lenience to others, who did not follow guidance, despite otherwise finding the messaging confusing. They expressed concern over socio-economic inequalities (class, financial, and regional) resulting from, or exacerbated by, the implementation of COVID-19 measures. Finally, they offered little support for the measures or leadership but did offer recommendations for changes to measures. These results will inform a wider investigation into the reception and evaluation of public health messaging and related measures, and how these change over time following interventions such as the introduction of new messaging campaigns.


McClaughlin, E., Nichele, E., Adolphs, S., Barnard, P., Clos, J., Knight, D., …Lang, A. (2021). Using online news comments to gather fast feedback on issues with public health messaging: The Guardian as a case study. Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), grant reference AH/V015125/1

Report Type Research Report
Publication Date Jun 21, 2021
Deposit Date Jun 21, 2021
Publicly Available Date Jun 21, 2021
Pages 4
Keywords covid-19, coronavirus, pandemic, corpus linguistics, news, newspapers, The Guardian, UK, England, Wales, Scotland, online comments, readers, readership, language, English, borders, discourse
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