Accuracy in Media

BuzzFeed News criticized both Florida beachgoers and local officials for re-opening some north Florida beaches with some restrictions. However, the website ignored the fact that the majority of beachgoers obeyed local officials’ orders and that photographs did not tell the whole story.

BuzzFeed News headlined its criticism, “Florida’s Governor Allowed Beaches To Reopen As Coronavirus Cases In The State Surpassed 25,000.” Although BuzzFeed News mentioned the restrictions imposed at beaches, it blasted Florida officials for reopening some of its beaches on the same day that the state reported 1,400 new cases of coronavirus infections. It cited photographs as evidence and wrote, “photos showed large crowds gathering at the beach, many of them not wearing protective gear.”

The lack of protective gear, based on photographic evidence, is a valid reason for criticizing the reopening of some Florida beaches. However, solely basing criticism on photographs also lacks context. The beachgoers visited the beaches at the pre-appointed time slots, from 6 a.m. – 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. – 8 p.m., contrary to BuzzFeed News’s narrative that the beachgoers were disobeying local orders and restrictions.

Local news station News4Jax reported that photographs presented a biased view of crowd sizes at the beach.

“Crowds have appeared to thin since the initial rush, and News4Jax has not seen any signs of large parties or gatherings — just groups of less than 10 people, which is allowed,” News4Jax wrote. “Some images do still appear to show crowds, but photos taken from different angles — at ground level and aerials from above — around the same time and near the same stretch of sand demonstrate how crowds can appear denser or thinner because of camera lens depths,” it said.

Neither did BuzzFeed News update their story with comments from Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry. Curry told local media outlets that the national media sensationalized the story and lacked appropriate context because the national media does not “understand our city.”

Curry said that his office monitors compliance on a daily basis and most people followed the restrictions on social distancing and beach hours.

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