As the world continues to watch developments related to the coronavirus, (which has now passed the SARS death toll of 774 people worldwide in 2003), we look largely to the media for what’s new and what might be coming. And just how has news coverage been over the past several weeks? Let’s take a look.
In fact, U.S. News & World Report in recent days did just that, noting that international media has been both lauded and criticized for its reporting. Perhaps most inflammatory has been Britain’s Daily Mail tabloid which, when scientists revealed the source of the virus could be bats, showed a photo of a Chinese woman purportedly eating one at a fancy restaurant. In France, meanwhile, a cover story on the outbreak in Le Courrier featured the headline, “The Yellow Peril?,” while, in Australia, the Herald Sun described events on the front page as: “Chinese Virus Pandamonium (sic).” All smacked dangerously of scapegoating, finger pointing and racism. Some later apologized.
In heavily-censored China, the jury is still out. State run media continues to provide regular updates on those infected and deceased, yet, coming from a government that initially tried to hide and downplay the virus, there are fears that actual numbers may be higher than those being provided. And, news has broken that Chen Qiushi, a citizen journalist who had been providing critical reporting out of Wuhan, has been missing since Thursday. This in the wake of the death of whistleblower doctor Li Wenliang.
Closer to home, media coverage in the United States has appeared much more balanced and even keel, as regular updates on outbreaks and quarantines are also placed into context with annual numbers related to typical influenza strands. The best approach it seems: educate to promote vigilance and caution while mitigating panic and fear. There are more trials and tribulations to come and stories to be told; the latter, it is hoped, put forth accurately, responsibly and respectfully, all over the globe.