I have been seeing posts accusing the media of fear-mongering in regards to COVID-19. This is especially true after the announcement of the first confirmed US death attributed to the virus.
These accusations of fear-mongering against the media are a double edged sword.
If the media covers COVID-19, we’re fear mongering.
If the media doesn’t cover it, we’re part of (insert plot) to cover it up.
I have seen both these opinions repeatedly posted on social media. It’s become a common theme for many issues.
But Why is the Media to Blame?
The job of the media is to inform. Different ethical codes* guide how, and exactly what, information journalists relay. And I assure you, this is not always an easy task.
Painting all media and news sources with the same brush is no longer reasonable, or fair.
But the flow of information does not end once you have received it. What you choose to do with that information is entirely up to you. Will you act on it, disregard it, share it, fact check it, or engage to find out more?
Accountability in the News
Will media outlets and journalists make mistakes? Absolutely. The 24-hour news cycle, analytics and revenue dollars often put unnecessary pressure to go faster, produce more and be first. The recent death of Kobe Bryant and the immediate coverage of the helicopter crash is a perfect example of how the race to be first in reporting, and to provide information to the public, can cause sloppy and damaging errors.
Journalists are humans. We make mistakes. And it is part of our job to take accountability for those errors, should we make them.
However it is equally as important for the public to remember that, while the media can make mistakes, intentional bad actors are out there. These bad actors actively spread misinformation and disinformation about a plethora of issues. Including about COVID-19.
In today’s social media dominated society, it is too easy to accept something we see on our smart device and accept it at face value. These bad actors are depending on that. Relying on information shared on social media alone is not enough. Only reading the headline or summary introduction of an article posted on social media is not enough.
Diversify Your News Sources
You must independently verify the news and information you consume. Check multiple sources, and be mindful to include sources that do not strictly align with your opinions and beliefs.
Like any good investment portfolio, you must also diversify your news sources. Reading only the same sources can result in confirmation bias. Allow yourself and your ideas on an issue to be challenged. Even if your opinion does not change, you will gain insight into differing perspectives.
It is also extremely important to recognize, and acknowledge, when a news source or media personality is providing commentary versus publishing a fact-based (unbiased) article. Commentary will inevitably be biased, does not necessarily require fact checking, and can absolutely have fear-mongering qualities. (For example, this is an opinion piece).
There are a plethora of local independent outlets in the Puget Sound (see below). We recommend including these outlets in your regular news intake.
YouTube and Instagram also have a variety of independent news channels that provide quality content that can help widen your perspective. (I like Rogue Rocket, the Philip DeFranco Show and Minute with Mads)
Not all media outlets have the same resources. Not all journalists have the same methods. Not all news sources have the same ethics and standards. Painting all media and news sources with the same brush is no longer reasonable, or fair.
Local Independent News Outlets:
Check out these local news outlets to help round-out your news intake.
- B-Town (Burien) Blog
- Waterland Blog (Des Moines)
- I Love Kent
- SeaTac Blog
- White Center Blog
- Normandy Park Blog
- Tukwila Blog
- Sumner News Index
- News of Mill Creek
Use these resources to be a better fact checker. Help put an end to the spread of misinformation and disinformation by verifying memes, social media posts and articles before you share them or repeat what they said.
- Not So Fast Campaign
- News Literacy Project
- Freedom Forum Institute’s Quick Guide to Spotting Fake News
*The Auburn Examiner practices the SPJ and RTDNA Code of Ethics. If we do not have a clear ethical course of action, we consult with the ethics committee.