Downplaying or “playing” it just right?

News reporting during the pandemic and the many ethical concerns.

Written by Trinh Ho

The Pandemic spread rampantly across the US and around the world in 2020.

It has been more than a year and a half since the WHO declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. As healthcare workers have been working tirelessly to combat the spread of the disease, journalists have also been at the forefront. Since everyone was forced to be home for an extensive amount of time last March, the need for accurate and factual data was needed more than ever. But as to any news that revolves around politics, the public or seemingly taking away “personal liberties” as Americans like to put it, different news outlets always have a way to fabricate messages to fit their various different demographics. The media’s role as a reputable source of health information has been called into question, with charges of misinformation and politics coming from both sides of the political spectrum. 

Death and different data points that involve people and diseases have long been a sensitive topic for the media to cover. In the US, where the media is plentiful and all have different opinions on different topics, news channel often leans toward their political affiliation. For example, during the first couple months of the pandemic, more left-leaning news fails to deliver the different data points that highlight the importance of containing the pandemic while on the other side, news coverage about the pandemic was widespread and sometimes even seem exaggerated. As the death and infection rates were rising, news channels like Fox News remains steadfast in “underplaying” the seriousness of the pandemic and choose to pick topics that don’t relate to the pandemic. This is how the rise of “fake news” during the pandemic has become mainstream. Turning our backs on the world’s worst public health disaster in almost a century has had far repercussions. It is unfortunate that some media outlets have influenced coverage of the pandemic based on their political affiliations. 

The pandemic gave us a different perspective on how we see the media. Since the public would only follow the news channel that aligns with their personal beliefs, the different opinions from the two major political parties splits the country in half. The obvious split has had some identifying a shift in how the public sees the power of the news. The repercussions of some conservative media’s persistent bad coverage of the pandemic are that attention is diverted away from a problem that is clearly out of control. You can get the misleading idea that the pandemic is going away and that the liberal media is making a big deal out of nothing if you get your news from certain websites. If you believe the epidemic will pass, you will be less inclined to conceal your face, which might save your life, the life of a loved one, or the life of someone else’s loved one. COVID-19 is unconcerned if you are a conservative, liberal, or neither; all that matters is that you are a human being.

Being somewhat of a 3rd party looking at the different media outlets and how they choose to report the pandemic, it is concerning that how a political outlook can sway the public away from the issues that need to be dealt with.