Accuracy in Media

CNN has had a tough several weeks when it comes to its coronavirus coverage. Adding to its woes, a recent CNN article inadvertently called out CNN’s past coverage of China’s coronavirus data.

The cable news network addressed the updated data in China with the headline, “Wuhan officials have revised the city’s coronavirus death toll up by 50%.”

The Chinese government revised its official death toll by 50%, from 2,579 deaths to 3,869 deaths. Chinese government officials defended the revision due to the lack of accuracy in counting the number of people who died at home and the confusion among medical professionals.

CNN criticized the Chinese government, saying that this was not “the first time health authorities have changed numbers related to the pandemic.” The article reported that the constant data changes led to “widespread confusion” about the pandemic and that data collection methods ignored asymptomatic cases. It warned that the recent revisions “could renew skepticism over China’s numbers” due to “its alleged lack of transparency” on the virus’s origins and its response to the outbreak.

CNN’s criticism of China’s government was a change from its previous news coverage.

The cable news network previously published a Chinese military press release as news citing the Chinese military as a source, but later updated the story to correct the mistake of publishing government propaganda as a news story. The cable news network also avoided direct criticism of China’s government and the accuracy of its coronavirus data in another article.

However, CNN failed to recognize that the recent data revision may not accurately represent the coronavirus outbreak and its death toll. The Chinese government has already revised its figures multiple times and acknowledged it did not count asymptomatic cases. CNN did not address whether the death toll could be much higher than official Chinese government data.

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