News outlets spread information about the coronavirus, not fear

Image by: Tessa Warburton

Contrary to popular belief, North American journalism about COVID-19 and its impacts isn’t sensationalism or fearmongering. It shows that reporters are doing their jobs to share information and accountability with the public.

At a press conference last week, US President Donald Trump accused a reporter of coronavirus sensationalism. Other high-profile figures such as R. R. Reno, the editor of a conservative religious journal, have also claimed the media conspires with public health officials to “heighten the atmosphere of crisis.”

Journalists are fulfilling their jobs by reporting on the unsettling reality of the virus and its spread. Accusing them of doing otherwise only generates more fear and division within our communities. It also pushes people to believe unverified sources instead of reputable news outlets.

Journalism’s primary responsibility is to keep the public informed by providing accurate and  unbiased news. This includes reporting on what COVID-19 symptoms to look for, what vulnerable populations are most at risk, and the rising number of cases reported by health officials. This information helps the public monitor their own health and warn them of the virus’ severity while encouraging the importance of self-isolation.

People are scared by COVID-19 news stories because we’re living in a frightening and uncertain time, but that fear shouldn’t be focused on the news itself. 

Fear is natural, but it’s better to be informed enough to take necessary precautions against the virus than to be oblivious to its dangers. At the moment, staying informed and following public health recommendations is the best way to keep yourself—and others—safe.

By accusing the media of sensationalizing COVID-19, influential political figures like Donald Trump perpetuate a damaging rhetoric that journalists aren’t trustworthy. This pushes people toward alternative, disreputable sources with dangerous consequences. A man in Arizona died after taking chloroquine, a drug that President Donald Trump claimed was a potential COVID-19 treatment, though the FDA hasn’t approved the drug to treat the disease. 

Instead of believing conspiracy theories about the media, people need to hold politicians accountable to the facts. Do your research—reputable sources will cite numbers and public health recommendations that can easily be fact-checked.

Watching the endless COVID-19 news cycle can be exhausting, and it’s important to carve out time to turn away from the news and take a mental break. But it’s equally important to stay informed when you have the mental capacity to do so. 

In North America, we’re privileged to have a free press. Instead of taking that for granted and blaming the media for our fear, stay informed. 

News outlets are our best source of information about the virus—so take advantage of them.

Chloe is one of The Journal’s copy editors. She’s a third-year English student.


coronavirus, Journalism

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