CHIMED-3: The third International Conference on Historical Medical Discourse

Photo credit: Niall Curry

On two (mostly) sunny May days last week, CHIMED-3, the third International Conference on Historical Medical Discourse was held at the beautiful and very apt location of Mary Ward House, in London. Built in 1898, the building has housed a great many initiatives to support education, community, health, wellbeing and the arts, heritage and science, making it the perfect place for this year’s meeting.

Threading throughout the two days was the issue of narrative. Questions included: who is telling the narrative, and who for? How do narrative strategies change and adapt to different cultural contexts and purposes? How can different datasets be combined to tell a more comprehensive story?

Beginning the day was a fascinating talk by Irma Taavitsainen on Medical Narratives (1375-1800), which explored how medical narrative forms and functions change over time and relate to specific genres and scientific thought styles. We were then treated to four talks that gave us a great insight into women’s recipe collections, through which a range of women shared their medical knowledge. We learnt that pages could be left free at the end of each chapter so that the new owners could add their own thoughts and recipes – wouldn’t that be a nice practice to bring back? Laura Esteban-Segura discussed a recipe manuscript from 1606 that appears to have been a wedding present to Alethea Howard, the countess of Arundel, and Isabel de la Cruz-Cabanillas moved the conference focus towards Late Modern English by exploring interpersonal communication in women’s recipe collections. Prepping us well for the lunch you see below, Francisco Alonso Almeida explored links between remedies and food via medical recipes in 19th century cookery books authored by women. Giulia Rovelli then spoke about Medical Knowledge in Late Modern English Household Recipe Books, which contained our personal favourite word of the day: “chururgeon” (surgeon).

Lunch! Photo credit: Hanna Schmueck

Once we’d sampled what good proper nourishment can do, Elena Semino and Derek Gatherer represented the QuoVaDis team with a fantastic plenary on the Victorian Anti-Vaccination Discourse Corpus (VicVaDis). The team is keen to make this corpus publicly available, so watch this space…

The final panel of the day featured Elisabetta Lonati’s talk on 18th-century midwifery, with our favourite quote of the day: “That which principally enobles any science, is the dignity of its object, and the public utility arising from it”. We then took a fascinating detour via a presentation by Anupama Shukla on different portrayals of people with epilepsy in literature (plenty of good Dostojewski content here!) before returning to the topic of midwifery in Richard J. Whitt’s talk dramatic tour of some quite explicit language emerging from a textual exchange within the 18th century controversy surrounding man-midwifery and the use of instruments. 

A screenshot of a quote in Richard J. Whitt’s presentation.

Georg Marko opened Day 2 with his excellent presentation on depersonalisation in medical writing (1700-1900), followed by Daniela Marrone guiding us through various topics emerging from Thomas Linacre’s Medical writing. Katrin Menzel concluded the panel by investigating adjective noun constructions in texts from microbe hunters (what a name) in 19th century Royal Society publications. A pleasure to see some stereotypically tongue-twister-y German compounding in this talk!

Following a quick coffee break, Anna Anselmo took us on a journey into the fascinating realm of Dormatology with her talk on Somnambulism in Medical Dictionaries. We then took a conceptual turn, with Anna La Torre guiding us through eugenics and racial medical discourse in scientific journals during Fascism in Italy, which generated important discussion surrounding how science can both reflect and shape social beliefs and actions. Taking us down another interesting path, Theresa Roth and Gohar Schnelle then presented on different evidential strategies that can be observed in ancient versus early modern medical discourse.

In our second plenary, Carla Suhr introduced us to the history of Daffy’s Elixir Salutis and its legitimisation in pamphlets & newspaper adverts. It was particularly interesting to explore this knowing that we were sat not far from where the elixirs would have been produced and sold back in the day. To conclude the conference, we journeyed from the UK to a completely different part of the world: Australia. Matthew Brook O’Donnell, Alan H. Brook and Angela Gurr presented health logs of the voyage (made by the Surgeon Superintendent, whose reputation and pay notably relied on good reports!) alongside multidisciplinary sources documenting the health of early migrant settlers in South Australia, including news reports and teeth. The advertised ‘life of emigration’ for working class people, in which the boat appears to be a luxury cruise liner and sheep lie down to be sheered, provided a marked contrast to the written and archaeological records of migrants’ experiences…

As you can see, this was a varied and interdisciplinary conference filled with fascinating explorations of medical discourses in different times and contexts. While strategies and contexts change, the purposes of educating and persuading (sometimes both) do not, and looking backwards provides important perspective on modern-day medical discourses, including issues surrounding depersonalised versus holistic approaches, vaccine hesitancy and stigma.

Thanks to everyone who attended CHIMED-3, be it virtually or live at Mary Ward House, we hope you enjoyed it as much as we did! If you couldn’t attend or would like to rewatch some of the talks, please feel free to take a look at the recordings here.

You can also follow the event on Twitter using the hashtag #CHIMED3.

Mentoring Social Science Researchers in Corpus Methods and Critical Discourse Analysis: Final Symposium at Keele University

Yuze Sha, with Luke Collins

On 25th January, members of the ESRC Centre for Corpus Approaches to Social Science joined colleagues from across universities in the North West to participate in a Symposium, celebrating the work of postgraduate students getting to learn how to use methods from corpus linguistics in their existing research.

In September 2022, Dr Luke Collins (Lancaster University) and Dr Kathryn Spicksley (Keele University) secured funding from the ESRC’s North West Social Science Doctoral Training Partnership, as part of the ‘Methods North West’ initiative, to launch the programme “Mentoring Social Science Researchers in Corpus Methods and Critical Discourse Analysis”. The aim of the programme was to set up a mentoring scheme, pairing postgraduate students based at Lancaster University with expertise in corpus linguistics (and optionally, critical discourse analysis) with postgraduate researchers working in other areas of the social sciences, to provide guidance on developing their understanding and skills in corpus linguistics research.

Five postgraduate researchers from Lancaster University with expertise in the field – Anastasios Asimakopoulos, Kevin Gerigk, Hanna Schmück, Yuze Sha and Yanni Sun – offered their time and expertise to, respectively, five mentees based at one of the universities in the North West Doctoral Training Partnership between September and January.

Despite having no prior training in corpus linguistics, our five mentees confidently presented their work at the Symposium, demonstrating how they had adopted concepts from corpus linguistics and found new ways to approach their study data. Topics for presentations included digital decisions in Higher Education (Fiona Harvey, Lancaster University), the way the UK prison system holds power accountable (Irfan Pandor, Keele University), to the marketising discourse in Speed Awareness course provider websites (Emily Brannen, Keele University). The data sources for corpus construction were also diverse, including interviews (Yi-Fang Chen, Lancaster University) and newspaper articles (Rebecca Page-Tickell, Lancaster University).

Our invited guest speaker was Dr Gavin Brookes, who started proceedings with a talk demonstrating the application of approaches from corpus linguistics to the study of healthcare. Guests also heard from Dr Fabienne Emmerich, the ESRC NWSSDTP Institutional Lead at Keele University and Lecturer in Law, who provided some encouraging observations of the talks and the mentoring programme, recognizing the engagement of our participants and the work that they had been doing with their mentors.

As a mentor, I absolutely enjoyed the mentoring process, working with my mentee, Yi-Fang. Yi-Fang came to the programme with a dataset consisting of 20+ interview recordings, averaging 2 hours in length. Given the amount of data, one of her concerns was for ensuring that she had an objective way to identify a sample that she could be confident was representative of the larger dataset. We established the key questions she wanted to explore in her study and co-designed a corpus-assisted critical discourse analysis approach for her project, outlining the ways that several corpus linguistics methods could be implemented into her study to facilitate her focus on particular extracts and support her in her qualitative analysis.

Yi-Fang was enthusiastic about using corpus methods to help identify statistically prominent features of her dataset, which helped her pick up the thematic topics in a relatively objective way. She then focused on the relevant concordance lines, applying a more detailed, qualitative analysis of the linguistic features and the ideologies behind key features. Collocation analysis using GraphColl (accessed using #LancsBox) also helped Yi-Fang to visualise connections between key language features in the data and do so in the original Chinese language of the texts.

This was the first time the mentoring programme had been carried out and based on the Symposium, we have been encouraged by the interest and application of corpus methods by our participants. We hope that establishing this network is just the beginning for building working relationships between postgraduate colleagues in the North West and sharing the advantages offered by corpus analysis.

A new addition to the Brown Family: BE21

Back in the 1960s, the Brown Corpus was the first corpus ever created – 1 million words of written standard American English from 15 registers, across 500 text samples, all around 2,000 words in size. Since then, there have been matched versions to cover the 1930s, the 1990s and the 2000s. Today’s reference corpora can be very large (enTenTen20 is 36.5 billion words) so 1 million words is not very big in corpus linguistics these days. However, because the members of the Brown family have used the same sampling frame, they can be usefully employed to carry out comparisons of UK and US English, as well as allowing us to track trends in language development over time – with the stipulation that these corpora tend to be effective when considering high frequency phenomena.

I built the BE06 in 2008, a British English version of the Brown corpus, with texts from 2006, and I was also involved in building its American sibling – AmE06. For those corpora, we stipulated that texts could be found online, as long as they had also been published in paper format elsewhere. That way, the job of creating the corpus was made easier, but the texts would also be similar in form to the other corpora. The gap between the 1990s versions of the corpora and BE06 was 15 years, so 2021 is a good point to create new versions. I began collecting data for BE21 (British English from 2021) around the mid-point of 2021 and finished in early 2022.

As well as helping us to examine language change and variation, the corpora can also be used as reference corpora for projects which involve relatively small amounts of text. So if you have a corpus of recent British newspaper texts, for example, that is under a million words in size, then BE21 would be a reasonable option as a reference corpus.

As with BE06, for BE21 I collected texts from online sources. For most (around 80-90%) of texts, there are “on paper” equivalents somewhere. However, these days, some texts appear designed to exist in online form – this includes things like online magazines or government documents. So I relaxed the stipulation a little bit to reflect how written language is increasingly migrating to online as opposed to paper.

My memory of collecting the BE06 corpus was that it didn’t take that long. At the time I calculated that it took around 10 working days in total. For the BE21, the texts took about three times longer than this. That was a surprise – I’d assumed that with more people publishing online, compared to 15 years ago, there would be a wealth of texts to choose from and the task would be easier. However, compared to 15 years ago, many texts are now behind firewalls so cannot be freely accessed. This was especially the case for magazines – collecting texts for the Popular Lore and Skills, trades and hobbies categories was more difficult than expected.

For the fictional sections, back in 2006, many authors had set up their own websites, where they provided free samples of their latest novels. These days, this doesn’t seem to be as common – although Amazon does provide free samples of books, via Kindle – so that was the route I went to collect the samples of fiction as well as the biographies.

Another complicating factor involved identifying and locating British authors, particularly when it came to the Academic Writing category. This was reasonably easy back in 2006, although today, academic publishing is a more international activity, as well as a team-based one, so I found that I was passing over many more possible articles than I remembered doing so in 2006. Trying to locate journals that contained the word “British” was a bit of a red herring, as that was no guarantee that British academics would be publishing in them. To be certain I was sampling “British” English, I needed to make sure that everyone on the team was from the UK, which meant quite a lot of Googling the names of academics and trying to get a sense of their background. I’ve erred on the side of caution, although this made the task of collecting the academic articles more difficult.

2021 will be remembered as a year when the main topic of conversation was COVID. If you obtain keywords from BE21, using BE06 as the reference corpus, the top 10 are COVID, pandemic, lockdown, I, vaccine, my, Brexit, care, people and coronavirus. The top one, COVID, appears in 114 out of the 500 text samples, a total of 446 times across the corpus. This was not because I actively sought out texts about COVID – it was just very hard to avoid them, particularly when I was collecting the non-fiction texts – COVID had permeated almost every aspect of British society in 2021. Co-incidentally, another corpus in the Brown family, B-LOB (Before LOB), also covers an international crisis. The year 1931 saw the Great Depression, which began in the United States, overwhelm Britain, with investors withdrawing their gold from London at the rate of £2.5 million a day. The UK went off the gold standard and during the election of that year, the Labour party was virtually destroyed leaving Labour’s Ramsay MacDonald as the Prime Minister for a National Government, an all-party coalition. This results in a few linguistic peculiarities in the BLOB corpus – such as the high frequency of words like unemployment which, in Great Britain increased by 129% between 1929 and 1932. Despite constituting new lexical items, and an increased focus on certain topics, The Great Depression does not make the B-LOB ineffective as a reference corpus though, just as COVID-19 does not render BE21 so idiosyncratic as to be useless.

Today I had the pleasure of seeing students use the BE21 for the first time, in one of my corpus linguistics seminars. We looked at the frequency of negation forms like “should not” and “shouldn’t” determining the extent to which the latter form is gaining precedence. The “n’t” form has been increasing in frequency for the past century. It has not yet become the dominant form, but it is starting to get very close, indicating grammaticalization of “n’t” as a bound morpheme, linked to densification and colloquialisation of written English. Looking to the future, the next time I would expect to build another Brown Family corpus will be in 2036. I suspect that by then, the “n’t” form will have become more popular than “not” and that increasingly, we will only see “not” occurring in archaic sounding phrasing like “it mattered not”.

The corpus is currently available through Lancaster University’s CQPweb, which is free to sign up for, and it will be coming to new versions of AntConc and #LancsBox soon. I have done some work examining changes in part-of-speech tag frequencies across the British Brown members, and a paper in the International Journal of Corpus Linguistics is forthcoming. I also gave a talk on the corpus and the results of that analysis, which can be found here. Compared to earlier corpora, BE21 has more first and second pronouns, more use of -s and -ing forms of verbs, more genitives, and far fewer terms of address like Mr and Mrs, as well as fewer modal verbs, gradable adverbs, of-based noun phrases and male pronouns. The trends identified by Geoffrey Leech, like densification, colloquialisation and democratisation are continuing. Another trend, Americanisation – also seems to be holding up, and when the AmE21 corpus is available (currently work is under way at Cardiff University to build it), we can start to further identify the ways that English is likely to shift in the future.

Introductory Blog – Emma Putland

My name is Emma Putland and I’m really excited to have recently joined the team here at CASS.

More specifically, I’m the Senior Research Associate on the UKRI-funded Public Discourses of Dementia Project, led by Dr Gavin Brookes. This project recognises the important role that language and imagery play in perpetuating, but also resisting, stigmatising stereotypes and assumptions about dementia. It therefore aims to identify and challenge dementia stigma by analysing the language and images that people and organisations use to communicate about the syndrome in public spaces (namely social media, newspapers, forums, public health bodies and non-profits). From this, we hope to produce specialised and empirically based communication guidelines and training to help improve portrayals of dementia. To do this, we will be using a combination of corpus analysis and multimodal analysis, and exploring how the two can work together. My background is primarily qualitative but I’ve been fascinated by corpus linguistics since my Applied Linguistics MA, so I’m grateful for the opportunity to learn from, and be inspired by everyone here – I can’t think of a better place to develop my corpus-based research!

This current project builds on my PhD research at the University of Nottingham, which explores how people with dementia and their supporters interpret, reproduce and resist different dementia discourses. For this, I ran focus groups and interviews to see how individuals affected by dementia situated themselves in relation to dementia discourses, both in conversation and when responding to examples of visual and linguistic representations. Our conversations lead to three key recommendations for improving dementia communications moving forward that I am keen to consider further: (1) normalise dementia, (2) provide more nuanced and diverse representations, and (3) better enable advocacy for people with dementia. With this in mind, I’m especially looking forward to working with our project’s stakeholder ambassador committee at Lancaster. This includes representatives for people with dementia, charities, healthcare professionals and the media, and will enable us as researchers to collaborate with and be guided by people with a range of experiences and expertise in communicating dementia.

As a researcher, I am passionate about community involvement and creative approaches to research dissemination. I have volunteered at a local Memory Café and as an Alzheimer’s Society Side-by-Side supporter, through which I have met an array of wonderful people and gained more of an insight into people’s everyday realities with dementia. I am currently developing a summary of my PhD for participants and other interested members of the public, collaborating with the ridiculously talented artist, Josh Mallalieu, to bring some of my participants’ words to life as illustrations (see the below examples). Asides being a lot of fun, this has been a great opportunity to not only analyse but create representations related to dementia.

Outside of research, I enjoy a good film, learning more about the world, and the concept of Tiny Houses. I want to make a habit of exploring new places without overlooking local gems, and would love to hear any recommendations that people have for in and around Lancaster!

‘You don’t go into a care home and just see brains, sort of, floating there [laughter]. You see people.’  
Someone who was previously a professional carer for people with dementia
(Image by Josh Mallalieu).
‘I think the more we can use the media, the more people realise that we, we are ok and and that we aren’t to be feared.’ – A participant with dementia
(Image by Josh Mallalieu).

P.S. If you want to find out more and stay up to date with our project, please see our new website and our Twitter profile (@pubdiscdementia). We’re very excited about them!

Introductory Blog – Jane Demmen

I’ve recently joined the CASS team as a Senior Research Associate investigating health(care) communication using corpus linguistic methods. My main focus will be on exploring the ways people talk about their experiences of pain, particularly chronic pain (lasting for over 3 months). I’m delighted to be involved in this interesting and important research area, alongside CASS colleagues including Prof Elena Semino and Dr Andrew Hardie, and Prof Joanna Zakrzewska (Eastman Dental Hospital, London).

Health(care) communication is one of my main areas of interest. I previously worked on a Lancaster University project investigating the way figurative language, particularly metaphor, is used to talk about the experience of end of life care (the Metaphor in End of Life Care Project, 2013-2014,

I also have a longstanding interest in the language of historical plays, particularly those by William Shakespeare and his contemporaries. I completed my PhD in this area in 2013, at Lancaster University, and before taking up my current post in CASS I was working on a new Encyclopedia of Shakespeare’s Language with Prof Jonathan Culpeper and Dr Andrew Hardie (

I’ve been fortunate to work on a variety of interesting projects over the last ten years or so, as a student then as a post-doctoral researcher. Nearly all my work has involved corpus linguistics (computer-assisted language analysis), and what I really like about it is the way it can show up patterns and trends in language which would be impossible to spot just by reading. It’s always exciting to see what’s revealed when we look at what kinds of language are used very often or very rarely. Having said that, the best thing about being a linguist, for me, isn’t in the computer – it’s in learning something interesting about language from almost every person I meet. I always enjoy hearing about other people’s experiences of language, for example, unusual word uses they’ve encountered, regional differences, and even misunderstandings!

Representation of the Sea in the UK Press: Public Awareness of the Oceans

Carmen Dayrell, Basil Germond (Lancaster University) and Celine Germond-Duret (Liverpool John Moores University)

  1. Introduction

5th November 2021 was COP26’s Ocean Action Day. The UK Presidency of the conference stressed the need “to take ambitious steps towards ocean health and resilience” in order to contribute to “our fight against climate change”. Ocean sustainability is contingent to citizens’ awareness of “the benefits they receive from the marine environment” (DEFRA, 2021, p.4). However, the sea is at the bottom of the list when it comes to public perception of global environmental issues (Potts et al., 2016).

This study examines the representation of the sea in the UK press, focussing on articles published in 2020 and analysing both national (broadsheet and tabloids) and regional newspapers (see section 3 for details). The goal is to unravel the way the sea is represented in the British written press, which is the third source of information about the marine environment (DEFRA, 2021, p.23). More specifically, we seek to explore: (i) the extent to which the sea is represented in purely technical, economic and opportunistic terms as opposed to emotional and identity terms; and (ii) how the media representation of the sea can inform our understanding of citizens’ connection to the sea.

  • Findings in brief

Finding 1:        The narrative frequently represents the sea in terms of economic opportunities: resources, profit and job creation.

Finding 2:        The ‘marine environment’ (and not the ‘sea’ itself) is represented as a natural resource that must be preserved, protected, especially in view of sustaining the economic benefits from the sea.

Finding 3:        Newspapers frequently stress the negative impacts of climate change on the sea.

Finding 4:        An emotional lexicon can only be found in relation to aesthetic considerations.

Finding 5:        A sense of place can be found in relation to the seashore/coastal locations.

  • Data

The analysis is drawn from three separate datasets, or ‘corpora’.  The National Corpus, divided into The National Broadsheet and The National Tabloid Subcorpora, and The Regional Corpus. Table 1 provides the number of texts and words included in each corpus.

CorpusNumber of textsNumber of Words
National corpus28,40622,076,726
National Broadsheet subcorpus 20,09917,651,577
National Tabloid subcorpus 8,3074,425,169
Regional corpus11,5456,700,126

Table 1: Number of texts and total number of words comprising each corpus

Figures 1 to 3 show the selection of individual newspaper titles within each dataset, with the overall number of articles per newspaper title.

Figure 1: Number of texts from each national broadsheet newspaper

Figure 2: Number of texts from each national tabloid newspaper
Figure 3: Number of texts from each regional newspaper

Articles were published between 1/1/2020 and 31/12/2020. All texts were collected from a news aggregator service (LexisNexis), considering the printed version of the newspapers in their weekday and Sunday versions. The collection of individual texts proceeded on the basis of specific terms: we searched for articles that contained either ‘sea(s)’ or ‘ocean(s)’ and considered any type of articles in which those words appeared. This means that, in addition to news reports, the corpora include other types of texts such as editorials and letters to the editor.

For the national newspapers specifically, we selected the national editions only, thus excluding the Irish, Scottish and Northern Ireland editions. Duplicates were removed from all corpora. However, for The Regional Corpus specifically, we kept articles that published across different newspapers (usually part of the same media group) given that they would reach different audiences.

  1. Methods

We used analytical techniques associated with the field of Corpus Linguistics to study the dominant narratives in the national and regional newspapers, and within each considering all newspaper titles in aggregate. The corpora were processed using the software WordSmith Tools version 7 and the software package LancsBox.

To provide an overview of the most distinctive linguistic characteristics of each corpus, we carried out ‘keyword’ analyses. Keywords are words that are more frequent in a corpus of interest (known as the ‘study’ corpus) than they are in another corpus (known as the ‘reference corpus’), where the difference is statistically significant. They can be interpreted as reflecting the most distinctive concepts and themes in a particular corpus.

We carried out three separate comparisons. We first generated the keywords in the National Corpus using the Baby+ edition of the British National Corpus 2014 (BNC2014-baby) as the reference corpus. We then carried out a similar procedure in the Regional Corpus. These procedures identified words that were salient in the National and Regional Corpora respectively in relation to a general corpus of British English. We then generated the keywords in the Regional Corpus using the National Corpus as the reference corpus so that we could identify words that were prominent in the Regional but not in the National Corpus.

For the calculation of keywords, we focused on words that occurred with a minimum frequency of 100 occurrences in one million words, in at least 1% of the total number of texts in the study corpus. This was to ensure that the analysis focused on words that were overall relatively frequent and occurred across various texts. In terms of statistical tests, we combined a statistical test of significance (the log-likelihood test) with an effect size measure (Log-Ratio). The log-likelihood test tells us to what extent differences in frequencies between the two corpora (the study and the reference corpus) is statistically significant. It was applied considering a critical value higher than 6.63 (p < 0.01). Log-Ratio measures how big the difference is. The higher the Log-Ratio score, the larger the difference. The log-ratio calculation therefore gives us the words whose frequencies are proportionally higher in the study corpus. For the analysis, we focused on the 20 keywords with the highest Log-Ratio score in each calculation.

Keywords were interpreted by examining their ‘collocations’ through close reading of their ‘concordance lines’. Collocation analyses explore co-occurrence relationships between words, and therefore makes it possible to study the narratives or discourses that a word is part of. Concordance lines refer to individual occurrences of each word with the preceding and following stretches of text. For The National Corpus, we examined the broadsheets and the tabloids separately so that we could determine similarities and differences in their narratives.

Collocations were generated on the basis of the following criteria:

  • Span of 5:5 – a window of five words to the left and five words to the right of the search word;
  • Mutual Information (MI) score ≥ 6. MI is a statistical procedure widely employed in corpus studies to indicate how strong the association between two words is. It is calculated by considering their frequency of co-occurrence in relation to their frequencies when occurring independently in each corpus.
  • Minimum frequency of collocation: 1% of the frequency in the study corpus.
  1. Findings

Tables 2 and 3 list the keywords in the National (broadsheet and tabloids altogether) and Regional Corpora respectively, in relation to the general language corpus, grouped by theme.

Seasea, ocean, coast, islands, marine, beaches, seas, oceans
Means of transportationboats
Measureslockdown, restrictions
Pandemiccovid, coronavirus, pandemic, virus
PoliticiansTrump, Boris

Table 2:‘Keywords’ in the National Corpus in relation to the BNC2014_Baby, organised by theme

Geographical referencesPlymouth, Aberdeen, Norfolk, Cornwall, Hove
Seasea, marine
Means of transportationvessel, vessels
Rescue servicecoastguard, lifeboat, RNLI
Measureslockdown, distancing
Pandemiccovid, coronavirus, pandemic

Table 3:‘Keywords’ in the Regional Corpus in relation to the BNC2014_Baby, organised by theme

Table 4 provides the keywords in the Regional Corpus in relation to the National Corpus, organised by theme. These keywords highlight themes which occurred with a relatively higher frequency in the Regional Corpus as compared with the National Corpus.

Rescue servicecoastguard, lifeboat, RNLI
Geographical referencesPlymouth, Aberdeen, Brighton, Suffolk, County, Norwich, Ipswich, Welsh, Southampton, Belfast, Hove, Durham

Table 4: Top 20 keywords in the Regional Corpus in relation to the National Corpus, organised by theme.

As discussed below, these keywords uncovered various ways in which the sea is represented in the UK press. Note the prominence of words referring to the Covid-19 pandemic and measures to control the spread of the virus (cf. the themes of Pandemic and Measures in Tables 2 and 3). This is not surprising since our study corpora are restricted to news texts published in the year of the pandemic (2020) while texts in the BNC2014-baby (that predates the Covid-19 pandemic) comprises a wide range of text genres and covers a longer period, from 2010 to 2017. This also explains the overuse of prominent politicians’ names (‘Boris’ and ‘Trump’) in the National Corpus (Table 2).

Finding 1: The narrative frequently represents the sea in terms of economic opportunities: resources, profit and job creation.

In both broadsheet and tabloid newspapers, prominence is given to negotiations around the fishing industry after Brexit (see Brexit and Industry in Table 2). Here the discourse revolves around the terms and conditions for European fleets to fish in UK waters (Extract 1), thus highlighting the relevance of the sea as an economic resource and the importance of protecting one’s economic rights in the current political climate. In addition to collocating with ‘Brexit’ in both subcorpora, the keyword ‘fishing’ collocates with types of sea transport (‘boat(s)’, ‘fleet(s)’, ‘vessel(s)’, and ‘trawler’), fishing gears (‘gear’ and ‘nets’) as well as words indicating some kind of restrictions (such as ‘quotas’, ‘illegal’, ‘rights’, ‘access’). There are also mentions of how the Brexit deal would affect fishing ‘villages’ and ‘communities’ in the UK and EU countries.

  • But the EU has been clear that the price of access to its markets must be access for its fishing fleets to British waters (The Times, 30/01/2020).
  • The row over fishing rights following Britain’s EU departure still threatens to collapse trade and security discussions after another week of wrangling ended in deadlock (The Sun, 22/11/2020).

References to economic resources are also seen through the collocations of ‘sea’ with ‘North’ across the three corpora (see Figures 4-6), which point towards mentions of oil production in the North Sea.

Figure 4: Collocates of ‘sea’ in the National Broadsheet Corpus

Figure 5: Collocates of ‘sea’ in the National Tabloid Corpus

Figure 6: Collocates of ‘sea’ in the Regional Corpus

While national newspapers frequently mention the oil industry’s revenues, regional newspapers report on the discussions on the North Sea Transition Deal. The North Sea is also mentioned in relation to measures to curb the spread of Covid-19 on UK platforms and avoid job losses (Extract 4).

  • By the mid-80s, the North Sea was providing 10% of the Treasury’s revenues, enabling Conservative government tax cuts, covering the costs of unemployment, and paying off a historic balance of payments problem (The Herald, 14/06/2020).
  • THE safety of North Sea workers is at risk over oil industry plans to rip up a vital sector-wide agreement, a trade union has warned (Daily Record, 05/03/2020).

Interestingly, most mentions of the North Sea in regional newspapers (74%) come from the two newspapers based in Aberdeen (Aberdeen Press and Journal and Aberdeen Evening Express). References to renewable energy are prominent in the Regional Corpus only, as indicated by the keyword ‘offshore’ (see Table 3), which uncovered mentions of the generation of renewable energy through offshore wind farms (Extract 5). This demonstrates how the sea is considered as an important source of revenue (in particular via job creation) in communities that have traditionally depended on the sea for income generation. In contrast, national newspapers frequently mention mining of the deep sea for minerals (see the collocations of ‘sea’ with ‘deep’, Figures 4 and 5), especially in relation to campaigns to halt deep-sea mining given its serious environmental impacts (Extract 6).

  • A predicted boom in North Sea offshore wind jobs was branded “a pipe dream” by union bosses after the Scottish Government admitted it only uses “estimates” of current employment figures in the sector. (Aberdeen Press and Journal, 20/02/.2020)

Sir David Attenborough has backed calls to halt deep-sea mining for minerals that are in high demand for use in items such as mobile phones. (The Daily Telegraph, 13/03/2020)

The Irish Sea is also frequently mentioned in the three corpora (see Figures 4-6). Here the discussion revolves around the negotiations between the UK and the EU in the context of Brexit as it entailed a regulatory border between Great Britain and Northern Ireland for the crossing of goods (Extract 7-8). It is interesting to note that 62% of the mentions of ‘Irish Sea’ in the Regional Corpus came from the Belfast Telegraph.

  • Animal products arriving across the Irish Sea from Great Britain – including meat, milk, fish and eggs – will have to enter through a border control post where paperwork will be checked and a proportion of goods will be inspected. (The Daily Mail, 10/12/2020)
  • But no matter how gently this was presented, an Irish Sea border has become a living reality, courtesy of Boris Johnson. (Belfast Telegraph, 16/12/2020)

Finding 2: The ‘marine environment’ (and not the ‘sea’ itself) is represented as a natural resource that must be preserved, protected, especially in view of sustaining the economic benefits from the sea.

The sea is represented as a natural resource to be preserved. However, this is seen through the collocations of the keyword ‘marine’ (see Tables 2 and 3) rather than through the word ‘sea’ itself. ‘Marine’ collocates with words such as ‘protected’, ‘conservation’, ‘ecosystems’ and ‘environment’ across the three corpora (Figures 7-9), uncovering mentions of initiatives and campaigns to protect marine life (Extract 9).

  • Conservation charity Blue Marine Foundation called for one of the first pilot sites to be established in Wembury Bay, in the Plymouth Sound National Marine Park, to protect its varied marine life and habitats and to help connect people to the sea (Western Daily Press, 08/06/2020).

Figure 7: Collocates of ‘marine’ in the National Broadsheet Corpus

Figure 8: Collocates of ‘marine’ in the National Tabloid Corpus

Figure 9: Collocates of ‘marine’ in the Regional Corpus

Concern about preservation of the sea ecosystem is also seen through the analysis of the keywords ‘boats’ or ‘vessel(s)’ (cf. Means of Transportation in Tables 2 and 3). The reporting revolves around campaigns against supertrawlers fishing in UK waters, especially in protected areas, as they have a negative impact on fishing ‘villages’ and ‘communities’. In the National Broadsheet Corpus, this narrative is also seen through the collocations of ‘fishing’ with ‘sustainable’ and ‘protected’, which unveiled references to sustainable fishing (Extract 10).

  • Marine wildlife monitors say the vessels are destroying fish stocks, killing non-target species, harming sustainable fishing communities and destroying marine ecosystems (The Independent, 12/12/2020).

Finding 3: Newspapers frequently stressed the negative impacts of climate change on the sea. Climate change is a prominent theme in the discourse of both national and regional newspapers, as indicated by the association of ‘sea’ with ‘level(s)’ across the three corpora, and with ‘rising’, ‘rise’ and ‘ice’ in

the National Broadsheet Corpus (see Figures 4-6). The newspapers frequently mention the rising of sea levels due to higher global temperatures (Extract 11). The National Broadsheet Corpus specifically mentions declining of sea ice cover in the Artic Ocean due to climate change. This is evident through the collocations of the keyword ‘ocean’ with words such as ‘Arctic’, ‘temperatures’ and ‘warming’ (Extract 12).

  • Sea level rises have accelerated in recent decades, threatening coastal areas and low-lying land by 2100 (The Express, 16/05/2020).
  • Ocean temperatures in the area recently climbed to more than 5C above average, following a record breaking heatwave and the unusually early decline of last winter’s sea ice (The Guardian, 22/10/2020).

Finding 4: An ‘emotional’ lexicon can only be found in relation to aesthetic considerations.

The keyword ‘sea’ collocates with ‘view(s)’ across the three corpora (see Figures 4-6), uncovering descriptions of places with ‘panoramic’, ‘stunning’, ‘incredible’ or ‘superb’ sea views. This relates to value of a sea view in the hospitality sector (hotels, accommodations, restaurants, etc.) as well as in private properties (Extract 13).

  • The property is spread over five floors and has key features such as a built in library, spectacular formal reception room and stunning sea views (The Argus, 12/09/2020).

Finding 5: A sense of place can be found in relation to the seashore/coastal locations.

A clear distinctive feature of regional newspapers relates to the prominence of place names (cf. Geographical References, Table 3). This is interesting because these draw attention to places close to the seashore. Through the analysis of the keyword ‘harbour’, we uncovered mentions of seaside towns with historic walled harbours where boats line up. Another feature specific of the Regional Corpus relates to Rescue services (Table 3) which refers to the services provided by local councils or charities in case of emergencies to ensure people’s safety on the beach or to rescue animals and objects from the sea (Extract 14).

  • On average, the Redcar lifeboat is called out between 50 and 70 times a year, with the RNLI nationally being involved in nearly 10,000 emergencies in 2019. (The Northern Echo, 21/10/2020).

The set of keywords in Table 4 provides further evidence for the prominence of Geographical References and Rescue Services in the Regional Corpus. The occurrence of the keyword ‘council’ is not surprising given the composition of the corpus (local newspapers). There are several mentions of councils’ planning and services, including those to ensure safety in the seaside. The keyword ‘pier’ corroborates the trend indicated by the ‘harbour’ by highlighting people’s connection to the sea through sports and leisure activities in seaside towns and counties (Extract 15).

  • Along with the pier’s existing aquarium and new rollercoaster, a £4m investment has added an indoor and outdoor adventure golf course as well as a children’s soft play area, covering more than 30,000 sq ft (East Anglian Daily Times, 01/02/2020).

6. Conclusions and recommendations

The dominant narrative in the British written press represents the sea as an economic resource and, at the same time, as a ‘marine environment’ to be protected and preserved. The sea is also recurrently represented as in needs of more regulations (especially in the context of Brexit and the migration crisis). We found some ‘emotional’ words in reference to ‘sea views’, but the dominant narrative is clearly one of utilitarianism and opportunism: in other words, the sea must be protected as it is useful, and not so much because we have any sense of belonging and connection to the sea. This fits with a weak conception of sustainable development that prioritises economic needs over environmental preservation (while trying to find a balance between these two necessities). The representation of the sea in British media demonstrates that there is an awareness of the benefits of the sea for livelihood and a need for the marine environment to be protected. But what is lacking is the conveyance of a real sense of place and belonging.

This has important consequences regarding ocean awareness. Indeed, having citizens worrying about the sea because they understand that the sea is economically important for them is certainly a good beginning, but this remains within the frame of a weak sustainability approach. Ocean sustainability (i.e. recognising the utter importance of the environmental and social dimensions of oceans) requires a stronger emotional connection with the sea. The narrative around the sea is too much utilitarian/opportunistic and not emotional enough. This contributes to a lack of sense of belonging and the valuing of oceans for their sole economic importance. In sum, our findings show that public policy stakeholders which want to further develop ocean awareness among the wider public need to contribute to the promotion of a narrative about the sea that is not just utilitarian (revenue, job creation) but also emotional.

Celebrating the Written BNC2014: Lancaster Castle event

On 19 November 2021, The ESRC Centre for Corpus Approaches to Social Science (CASS) organised an event to celebrate the launch of the Written British National Corpus 2014 (BNC2024). The event was live-streamed from a very special location: the medieval Lancaster Castle.  There were about 20 participants on the site and more than 1,200 participants joined the event online.  Dr Vaclav Brezina started the event and welcomed the participants from over 30 different countries. After the official welcome by Professor Elena Semino and Professor Paul Connolly, a series of invited talks were delivered by prominent speakers from the UK and abroad. The talks covered topics such as corpus development, corpora in the classroom, corpora and fiction and the historical development of English.

The BNC2014 is now available together with its predecessor the BNC1994 via #LancBox X.

#LancsBox X interface
#LancsBox X interface

More information about the design and development of the Written BNC2014 is available from this open access research article:

If you missed the event, we offer the recording of the individual sessions below. You can also view the pdf slides about the Written BNC2014.

Online programme: Lancaster Corpus Linguistics
Vaclav Brezina, Elena Semino, Paul Connolly  (Lancaster University): Welcome and Introduction to the event
Tony McEnery (Lancaster University): The idea of the written BNC2014
Dawn Knight (Cardiff University): Building a National Corpus:  The story of the National Corpus of Contemporary Welsh
Vaclav Brezina and William Platt (Lancaster University): Current British English  and Exploring the BNC2014 using #LancsBox X
Randi Reppen (Northern Arizona University): Corpora in the classroom
Alice Deignan (University of Leeds): Corpora in education
Dana Gablasova (Lancaster University): Corpus for schools
Bas Aarts (University College London): Plonker of a politician NPs
Marc Alexander (University of Glasgow): British English: A historical perspective
Michaela Mahlberg (University of Birmingham): Corpora and fiction
Martin Wynne (University of Oxford): CLARIN – corpora, corpus tools and collaboration
Vaclav Brezina Farewell

Talking Health Online

On 21 October 2021, the ESRC Centre for Corpus Approaches to Social Science hosted a webinar entitled, “Talking Health Online: Why it matters and what linguistics can contribute”, as part of a series of events organised by the International Consortium for Communication in Health Care (IC4CH). The IC4CH is an initiative that brings together language and communication researchers and health care practitioners at an international level, to translate the findings of interdisciplinary research to improve healthcare practice. The Consortium includes members from the Australian National University, Nanyang Technological University, Lancaster University, University College London (UCL), the University of Hong Kong and Queensland University of Technology. Like the Consortium, this webinar event brought together colleagues from around the world, with speakers from Lancaster University, UCL and Nanyang Technological University.

The webinar centred on online forms of health communication, particularly online forums, and featured a range of perspectives from scholars at different career stages. Delivered as a conversation between our chair, Professor Tony McEnery, and our respective speakers, attendees had the opportunity to hear about a range of projects involving linguistic analyses of health care communication.

The first of our speakers, Prof Joanna Zakrzewska, is a practicing consultant trained in oral medicine and an honorary professor at UCL. Joanna specialises in a condition called trigeminal neuralgia, a severe pain condition affecting the face, and talked about her work with the Trigeminal Neuralgia Association establishing various support services, including an online forum. Working with Professor Elena Semino, Joanna and her team were able to get a clearer understanding of the types of interactions that were taking place on the forum and identify areas where there was a need for input from medical professionals. Subsequently, the forum has functioned as a source of quality information regarding trigeminal neuralgia, as well as a space for users to find empathy and compassion among peers.

Joanna’s case study indicated what kinds of insights are afforded by linguistic analysis and, in particular, corpus linguistics. Our next speaker, Dr Tara Coltman-Patel, offered further details on what linguistics can contribute and what is involved in corpus linguistic analysis. Tara is a Senior Research Associate in CASS, working principally on the Quo Vadis (Questioning Vaccination Discourse) project, which involves investigating social media, parliamentary discourse and news media, alongside forum interactions. Tara emphasised the evidence-based approach that computational analyses of large datasets affords and, in detailing some of the procedures involved in corpus analysis, demonstrated how researchers can uncover linguistic strategies used for rhetorical effect in discussions around health issues such as vaccination.

Next to speak was Professor Elena Semino, Director of CASS, who offered further details on the analytical approach used to investigate the trigeminal neuralgia support forum. Elena has strong research expertise in studying metaphor and was also able to provide examples of her work developing the Metaphor Menu for people living with cancer. Responding to long-standing debates about the impacts of conceptualising experiences of cancer as, for example a ‘battle’ or a ‘journey’, Elena’s research team found that people respond differently to such metaphors: that while one person can find the idea of preparing for ‘battle’ empowering, this framing can be highly detrimental to those who feel it can be a battle lost. The Metaphor Menu is a resource, in the form of a leaflet and postcards, that presents patients and practitioners with a range of metaphors used by patients to describe their experiences with cancer and is recommended by Cancer Research UK. As with a restaurant menu, patients have the opportunity to adopt the framing of their choosing, or indeed create new ‘recipes’, that help them to view their situation in more empowering ways.

The conversation continued with a focus on the patient experience, with questions directed towards Dr Gavin Brookes, a Research Fellow in CASS who offered some reflections on his work exploring Patient Feedback provided to the UK’s National Health Service (NHS). In this work, Gavin was able to investigate the combination of quantitative metrics (feedback scores) and qualitative comments (free text responses). One of the challenges of the study was establishing what type of respondents were providing feedback, with very little information about personal characteristics such as age, gender, where they were from etc. The solutions developed by Gavin and his collaborators in extracting such information from the data they had available also generated insights into how respondents would disclose personal characteristics as an argumentative strategy. Furthermore, Gavin recounted some of the observations they were able to provide to the NHS, to better understand the feedback form itself and the nature of the responses they received.

Our final speaker was Professor May O. Lwin, Chair and President’s Chair Professor of Communication Studies at Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, Nanyang University. One of the many areas of research May has been involved in is the study of public communications during epidemics. May recounted some of the observations she and her team have made of conversations on Twitter, in relation to Covid-19. Using a technique called sentiment analysis, May was able to track references to emotional states and assess the trajectories of various communities around the world as the pandemic developed. May told us how fear and then anger were dominant emotions expressed on Twitter, but that there is also evidence for expressions of hope and gratitude as members of those communities look to support each other. May’s work demonstrated the influence that public communications from the government had on the overriding sentiment of conversations on the topic, and so it is important to think about the language used in those announcements and how they shape the public mood.

Our speakers then took questions from the audience, providing a view of what is involved in accessing and securing online forms of health communication data, in collaborating with practitioners and in working with large and diverse datasets. This part of the discussion again reiterated the value of interdisciplinary work and, in fostering that interdisciplinarity, working to make your research accessible and finding common ground. In this respect, the webinar echoed one of the core values of the International Consortium for Communication in Health Care: bridging the divide between academic and practitioner worlds based on a shared commitment to understanding and improving health communication.

You can watch the video here: Video

You can view the transcript here: Transcript

Fully Funded PhD Studentship in Linguistics at Lancaster University

The Department of Linguistics and English Language at Lancaster University, UK is delighted to offer a fully funded PhD studentship (UK home-rate fee) as part of the UKRI-funded project, ‘Public Discourses of Dementia: Challenging Stigma and Promoting Personhood’.

The aim of this project is to challenge dementia stigma by changing the ways in which dementia is discussed in the public domain, focusing in particular on the mainstream media, public health bodies and charities in the UK. This project will explore the language and imagery that are used to represent dementia in texts produced by these organisations and compare these against those used by the general public to talk about dementia on social media and by people living with dementia when giving first-hand accounts of their lives with the syndrome. The project team will work closely with media, public health and charity organisations to implement changes to communicative practices around dementia in ways that challenge stigma and promote personhood, through the development of communication guidelines and the delivery of training to public communicators from charities, the media, research and public health. Crucially, the project team will collaborate closely with people with dementia themselves to ensure that their voices are heard and valued not only in future public discourse but also in the research process itself. The Project team will be led by Dr Gavin Brookes and supported by Professor Tony McEnery. The project will also be supported by an externally based academic advisory committee. You can read more about the project here:

We are seeking to recruit a strong and enthusiastic PhD candidate with demonstrable knowledge and interest in at least two of the following areas: corpus linguistics; multimodal (visual) discourse analysis; health communication. The successful candidate should hold a Master’s degree in linguistics or a related area. However, clearly outstanding and particularly well-suited candidates who have completed a first degree will be considered. Candidates may be invited to interview (dates and format to be confirmed).

This studentship is open to students eligible for UK Home fees only (for more information, see:

If you are interested in this opportunity, by way of application please email Gavin Brookes ( with the following:

  • A short CV (max 2 pages) outlining your qualifications, achievements and publications (if applicable)
  • A personal statement describing your suitability to the project (focusing in particular on your knowledge and skills, including relating to methodological approaches) (max. 500 words)
  • An example of your writing (either an assignment or chapter from a dissertation)

Start date: October 2022 (or as soon as possible thereafter)

Duration: 3 years

Application deadline: 31st May 2022

Funding information: A stipend of £15,609 for 22/23, which will increase each year in line with the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) rate, plus Home-rate fee allowance of £4,500 (with automatic increase to UKRI rate each year). The successful candidate will also have access to a generous training and conference budget.

Blamed, shamed and at-risk: How have press representations of obesity responded to the COVID-19 pandemic?

There’s no question that all of us within society have been impacted in one way or another by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. However, it’s also the case that the health and wellbeing of certain groups have been particularly affected. A review of evidence on the disparities in the risks and outcomes of COVID-19 carried out by Public Health England suggests the virus has ‘replicated existing health inequalities and, in some cases, has increased them’. One group at particular risk of experiencing serious complications from COVID-19 is people living with obesity. Another report from Public Health England, reviewing evidence on the impact of excess weight on COVID-19, concluded that ‘the evidence consistently suggests that people with COVID-19 who are living with overweight or obesity, compared with those of a healthy weight, are at an increased risk of serious COVID-19 complications and death’.

In this paper, published in Critical Discourse Studies, Gavin Brookes explores how British print media representations of obesity have responded to the pandemic. The study, which is the latest in the CASS project exploring representations of obesity in the British press, is based on purpose-built corpora representing UK broadsheet and tabloid coverage of obesity during the pandemic. The analysis involved the use of keywords which were obtained by comparing each corpus against two reference corpora: one representing general press coverage of COVID-19 and the other representing general coverage of obesity in the six months leading up to the start of the pandemic. In this way, the study could account for keywords (and attendant discourses) that were characteristic of press representations of obesity during the pandemic relative not only to general coverage of obesity, but also general coverage of the virus.

Compared to this more general reportage, both broadsheet and tabloid reporting of obesity during the pandemic was found to be more fatalistic, with people with obesity being particularly likely to be construed as dying, or at least as being at heightened risk of dying, from the virus. For the broadsheets, this is a marked change in tone, with the pandemic seemingly ushering in a more pronounced focus on the connection between obesity and mortality. While such fatalistic discourses are characteristic of tabloid coverage of obesity in general, it seems that this way of framing obesity has gained even more prominence in these newspapers during the pandemic.

People with obesity were also depicted as a strain on an already-overburdened NHS, for example by taking up hospital beds and requiring oxygen therapy to the extent that this need creates a shortage for the rest of the population. The solution put forward (particularly by the tabloids, and to a lesser extent the right-leaning broadsheets) is for people with obesity to lose weight, for instance through exercise and supplements, in order to ‘save’ the NHS. This results in the responsibilisation of people with obesity, both for ensuring their own health and that of the wider public. This includes being responsible for ‘saving’ the NHS, though notably the damage endured by the NHS at the hand of austerity politics over the last decade is, conveniently, elided.

The link between obesity and coronavirus affords the press means by which it can maintain the newsworthiness of obesity in the context of what is, in COVID-19, a news story of global relevance. Meanwhile, the fatalistic and responsibilising depictions allow news agencies to key into the news value of negativity. Yet, discourses of personal responsibility are often criticised because they typically fail to grasp that obesity (along with other so-called ‘lifestyle’ conditions) is not simply the outcome of individual lifestyle choices, but likely results from a variety of factors (both individual and socio-political), over which individuals often have limited control. When the newspapers offer a public figure as privileged and powerful as Boris Johnson as a ‘role model’ for readers wanting to lose weight, they risk overlooking the influence of factors such as social privilege in the development of obesity.

When individuals and groups are blamed for problems in society, the result is the creation and propagation of stigma. The way much of the press has reported on obesity during the pandemic represents a ‘ramping up’ weight stigma, with people with obesity not only being blamed for their own health challenges but also shouldering responsibility for problems with the NHS against the backdrop of the most severe public health crisis of modern times. The weight stigma that results from this kind of blame-loading may engender further negative attitudes towards people with obesity, resulting in internalised shame. Yet the consequences of weight stigma may also be intensified by the circumstances surrounding the pandemic, which have already adversely affected the population’s mental health. Meanwhile, the aforementioned report by Public Health England stated that ‘stigma experienced by people living with obesity, may delay interaction with health care and may also contribute to increased risk of severe complications arising from COVID-19. It’s not all doom-and-gloom, though, as the pandemic also seems to have given rise to other, less stigmatising, changes to the press’s approach to obesity. For example, the broadsheets, and to a lesser extent the tabloids, also focussed more on race-related health disparities compared to in usual coverage of obesity. Meanwhile, the right-leaning tabloids offered otherwise uncharacteristic criticism of the UK Government, in particular for its ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme, which we presented as being hypocritical by encouraging people to eat out on the one hand while imploring them to lose weight on the other. From the perspective of promoting more balanced obesity coverage, which cuts across political allegiances, this could be viewed as an encouraging sign. However, it remains to be seen whether this, along with the other changes to press discourse ushered in by the pandemic, will be lasting or particular to this unique and unprecedented news context.