2020 has been the wildest year I’ve ever experienced in my (almost) 22 years on Earth and it’s only March. WWIII is looming, fires ravaged Australia, Kobe Bryant unexpectedly died, and now COVID-19, a novel coronavirus, has become a pandemic and shut down countries in the span of months, seemingly overnight in the United States.
I’ve been studying mass communication and public relations at college for four years now. With my “media mindset”, it’s always interesting to watch how companies react to things. With this pandemic being something that affects the entire globe, media companies big and small are covering it. Every day, social media is flooded with new information on rising numbers and closures. It’s crazy that Twitter has become such a hotspot for releasing information, so much so that many companies are announcing closures, postponements, and steps of action through the social network first, even before press releases and other typical forms of media.
You would think that with so much coverage surrounding COVID-19, most people would feel comfortable with the fact that they have the most updated information. It’s easy to stay informed and keep up with what’s going on as it’s going on. I for one am thankful for journalists who are working so hard to get the most accurate information to their readers, listeners, and viewers.
Others, unfortunately, do not feel the same way. I can’t get on Facebook without seeing people blaming the media for the panic. “It’s just the media trying to control us” or “it’s just media hype!” The media this and the media that. People are blaming “the media” for the way others are handling this life-changing situation.
I do not work for a media organization, but I know some who do. I study it in school. I’m taking similar classes as those you see on the news or writing articles. Seeing people attack “the media” so blatantly hurts my heart.
In case you didn’t realize it, “the media” consists of thousands of smaller, mostly locally owned, organizations whose intent is to keep you informed. “The media” is not a large mass people who meet up and decide to work together to change your political stance or “control you” during a pandemic.
In communication classes, we learn about the elements of news:
For the most part, journalists (aka, the people who make up the big bad “media”) are simply trying to follow these elements to keep their communities informed. Yes, there are always bad apples in any career, but the majority of journalists are not trying to “control” you.
With everything going on right now, the only relevant pieces of news are going to be about COVID-19, the cases, and how the government is handling things. Journalists are not wanting to create panic. I haven’t seen a single article where a journalist put in their own opinions about how dangerous or harmless this virus is. Good journalists give facts. They quote important people. They keep communities updated.
I imagine this is not easy. With new information coming in every moment, journalists are faced with challenges about what to share and what to ignore. Instead of keeping the US in the dark, they’re choosing to share all (or a large quantity) of the information they’re given. Once again, not to control, but to inform.
David Bauder wrote an article for ABC News a couple weeks ago where he said, “News organizations trying to responsibly report on the growing health crisis are confronted with the task of conveying its seriousness without provoking panic, keeping up with a torrent of information while much remains a mystery and continually advising readers and viewers how to stay safe.”
Some people are overwhelmed with all this information. Ignorance is bliss, after all. However, I’d rather have “the media” give an abundance of accurate, timely, and relevant information if it means I know what’s going on. I’d rather not remain in the dark in regards to how dangerous this virus could be. Having updated information gives us a chance to act rather than just waiting for the government to make decisions for us. We can make our own decisions with the information we have, such as the choice to partake in social distancing and/or working from home.
Stop blaming the media for how people react to the information they share. It is not your local journalist’s fault for people panic-buying toilet paper. Fear is a natural response. Anger and sadness are normal emotions when things are canceled and you’re likely going to have to stay inside your home for weeks at a time. However, this is nothing “the media” or the government or anyone can control.
Don’t waste your energy blaming the very people who are trying to help you.
Go bake some cookies or something, instead.
If you’re a journalist, thank you.