The Story Behind the Story: Reporting Conditions in China During the Coronavirus Crisis as Told by the Correspondents of El País and ABC

Adrià Calatayud-Vaello


This study seeks to investigate the reporting conditions in the early coverage of the coronavirus crisis by the China correspondents of two Spanish newspapers: El País and ABC. After conducting in-depth, semi-structured interviews with the correspondents, this study finds that they only started to focus on the viral outbreak once Wuhan city had been locked down. The interviewed correspondents faced logistical, political, professional and personal challenges while covering coronavirus in China due to the impossibility of entering Wuhan, censorship, difficulties in finding people that would speak to them and the general uncertainty of the situation, respectively. Previous research has studied how El País and ABC’s correspondents covered the coronavirus crisis in China and found that they focused on the response from authorities and that people affected by the virus were usually represented as speechless statistics and, thus, othered. The reporting conditions correspondents encountered helps to understand why the crisis was covered that way.

Texto completo:

PDF (English)


Abuín Vences, N. et al. (2020) ‘Tratamiento informativo de la pandemia del coronavirus en los medios digitales españoles / Coronavirus pandemic news coverage in spanish digital media’,, (21), pp. 15–26. doi: 10.31009/

Argiñano, J.-L. and Goikoetxea Bilbao, U. (2020) ‘Análisis de los titulares y las fotografías de portada en España en el contexto de la crisis del coronavirus: protagonistas, frames y lenguaje bélico’, Revista de Comunicación y Salud, 10(2), pp. 1–23. doi: 10.35669/rcys.2020.10(2).1-23.

Calatayud Vaello, A. (2019) ‘Foreign Correspondents as Intercultural Mediators: Toward a Theoretical Approach to Foreign Correspondence Based on Intercultural Communication’, in II Congrés de la Societat Catalana de Comunicació. Barcelona: Unpublished.

Calatayud Vaello, A. (2021) ‘Othering in the Times of Coronavirus: Critical Discourse Analysis of the Early Coverage of a Major Health Crisis by the China Correspondents of El País and ABC’, Comunicació: revista de recerca i d’anàlisi, 38(1), pp. 53–79. doi: 10.2436/20.3008.01.202.

Casmir, F. L. (1997) Ethics in intercultural and international communication. New York: Routledge.

Chen, G.-M. (2009) ‘Intercultural Communication Competence Theory’, in Littlejohn, S. W. and Foss, K. (eds) Encyclopedia of Communication Theory. Thousand Oaks: Sage, pp. 529–532.

Darling-Hammond, S. et al. (2020) ‘After “The China Virus” Went Viral: Racially Charged Coronavirus Coverage and Trends in Bias Against Asian Americans’, Health Education and Behavior, 47(6), pp. 870–879. doi: 10.1177/1090198120957949.

FCCC (2021) Track, Trace, Expel: Reporting on China amid a Pandemic. Beijing.

Garfin, D. R., Silver, R. C. and Holman, E. A. (2020) ‘The novel coronavirus (COVID-2019) outbreak: Amplification of public health consequences by media exposure.’, Health psychology : official journal of the Division of Health Psychology, American Psychological Association, 39(5), pp. 355–357. doi: 10.1037/hea0000875.

Iranzo-Cabrera, M. and López-García, G. (2021) ‘Scientific power in the Spanish press during the pandemic: A portrait of new leaders while explaining its risk’, Communication and Society, 34(2), pp. 263–280. doi: 10.15581/

Kim, Y. Y. (2009) ‘Cross-Cultural Adaptation Theory’, in Littlejohn, S. W. and Foss, K. (eds) Encyclopedia of Communication Theory. Thousand Oaks: Sage, pp. 243–247.

Mohammed, S. et al. (2021) ‘International Journal of Nursing Studies The “ nurse as hero ” discourse in the COVID-19 pandemic : A poststructural discourse analysis’, International Journal of Nursing Studies. Elsevier Ltd, 117, p. 103887. doi: 10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2021.103887.

Mokry, S. (2017) ‘Whose voices shape China’s global image? Links between reporting conditions and quoted sources in news about China’, Journal of Contemporary China, 26(107), pp. 650–663. doi: 10.1080/10670564.2017.1305480.

Picazo Sánchez, L., de Frutos Torres, B. and Gutiérrez Martín, A. (2020) ‘La COVID-19 en la prensa española. Encuadres de alarma y tranquilidad en las portadas de El País, El Mundo y La Vanguardia’, Revista de Comunicación y Salud, 10(2), pp. 355–384. doi: 10.35669/rcys.2020.10(2).355-384.

Prieto-Ramos, F., Pei, J. and Cheng, L. (2020) ‘Institutional and news media denominations of COVID-19 and its causative virus: Between naming policies and naming politics’, Discourse and Communication, 14(6), pp. 635–652. doi: 10.1177/1750481320938467.

Sun, W. (2015) ‘Configuring the foreign correspondent: New questions about China’ s public diplomacy’, Place Branding and Public Diplomacy, 11(2), pp. 125–138. doi: 10.1057/pb.2014.20.

Thomas, T. et al. (2020) ‘How the Media Places Responsibility for the COVID-19 Pandemic—An Australian Media Analysis’, Frontiers in Public Health, 8(August), pp. 1–14. doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2020.00483.

Yang, Y. and Chen, X. (2020) ‘Globalism or Nationalism? The Paradox of Chinese Official Discourse in the Context of the COVID-19 Outbreak’, Journal of Chinese Political Science. Journal of Chinese Political Science. doi: 10.1007/s11366-020-09697-1.

Zeng, Y. (2018) Reporting China on the Rise: A Study on the Field of Foreign Correspondence in Contemporary China (Doctoral dissertation). City University of Hong Kong.

Zhang, X. and Shaw, G. (2020) ‘The UK media coverage of China’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak’, Global Media and China. doi: 10.1177/2059436420980072.


Enlaces refback

  • No hay ningún enlace refback.