Jonatan Lygdman: COVID-19 reporting in the news media in Finland: A Topic Modeling Approach (Master’s Thesis, Aalto University, 2022)


The COVID crisis has received unprecedented attention in the news media during the past two years, as a crisis with never-before-seen reach both geographically and by the number of affected people. The COVID crisis has combined aspects of an acute crisis and a slowly developing one, as well as creating the demand for health information, creating a unique situation for both communicators and the public from an informational standpoint.

The goal of this thesis is to create an overview of the content of the news articles of four major Finnish newspapers during the first 18 months of the pandemic.

To investigate the media, 51686 news articles were scraped from the respective news media websites. These articles were structured using LDA topic modeling, and 38 topics were recognized, which were further grouped under seven broader themes. The results of the topic model were investigated both from a temporal perspective and per newspaper.

The reporting in the news media is consistent with many known aspects of crisis communication but simultaneously shows unique aspects. Temporally heavily evolving topics included first geographical focus and educating about the nature of the virus, to prevention methods such as masks and testing, and finally vaccinations becoming the most popular subject. Other topics, such as the impact of COVID and restriction news, stayed at the core of reporting for the entirety of the dataset.

Across newspapers the differences in topics were smaller than initially hypothesized, and in most of the topics barely noticeable. The most important events during the pandemic that were recognized from the model were the initial rising number of cases in Finland, the isolation of the Uusimaa region, the shortage of PPEs worldwide, the mask recommendation by THL, the authorization to the vaccines by EMA, and the curfew discussions by the government.

The full thesis can be read in Aaltodoc.