The all-consuming coronavirus headlines
Jessica Guerrucci – Managing Editor
Headline after headline — suggestions of fear, of optimism and hints of uncertainty — all eyes are on the news media as they rush to cover an unpredictable and constantly changing coronavirus outbreak.
With the media approval rate standing at 44 percent as of March 25 according to Gallup, it is not surprising that it is being looked at in a negative light. With fear growing and Americans more on edge than ever before, it is more critical the news media gets it right.
Without a doubt, President Donald Trump plays a role here as well. Now that he has been forced to emerge and hold press briefings once again, the media attacks move into the spotlight as well – but his approval rating has slipped, as Gallup said it is down to 43 percent.
As a member of the news media, but also as a human being, I can say that the news right now is overwhelming. It takes a toll on mental health to see the numbers rise. There is still knots in my stomach when I see the death toll. The numbers are real – and they incite fear.
The fear that comes with the numbers, however, is not dramatized. The media, while there will always be “fake news” or misinformation, is trying their best to report on a rapidly evolving situation accurately – so for that, I am patient with them.
However, there are headlines that are dramatized and create unnecessary fear. Thirty-seven percent of Americans said they believe the media is exaggerating the risks of the virus and 48 percent say they have seen made up news according to Pew Research Center.
With social media now, I also consider that this is the first “virtual” pandemic. The spread of misinformation is quicker now than ever before and it causes confusion. Pew stated that four-in-10 Americans believe the coronavirus was made in a lab – and they are not coming up with that idea themselves.
I see the spread of misinformation firsthand as I continue to work and customers make small talk about the virus, with one saying that he is 35-years-old and not afraid of getting sick – yet the media tells us no one is immune.
Some headlines are just misleading. When my phone buzzed and told me that the U.S. surpassed Italy’s death toll it did not seem shocking. In my head, I just thought, ‘Of course,’ because it makes sense. The U.S. is a country of 331 million people whereas Italy is one with 60 million – so it was logical, but for others it is terrifying to think about.
There is also a feeling of false hope. I see the headlines saying the states will reopen sooner than planned, that progress on vaccines are being made – even our own president wants us to think optimistically and he says the virus has reached the “peak,” but until the numbers stop rising I cannot seem to have real hope.
As easily as I allow myself to get consumed in the coronavirus headlines and swallowed by the fear, I thank the media for informing us, for showing the raw reality of the situation and persevering through a challenging and uncertain time.