Accuracy in Media


The mainstream media has overblown the spread of the coronavirus, a flu-like virus that originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan. Though the virus has spread to a global level, the media’s coronavirus coverage led to panic and hysteria among the public despite the best efforts of public officials and public health authorities to dissuade mass panic.

Examples of panic range from cancelling sporting events to concerts to supermarket shortages of toilet paper and bottled water.

The coronavirus has an incubation period of up to two weeks and those infected could exhibit symptoms until the latter part of the two weeks. Infected patients are considered contagious and could spread the virus. The symptoms associated with the coronavirus are similar to the flu, such as trouble breathing, fever, cough, and gastro-intestinal problems. The contagious nature of the virus led multiple professional sporting leagues to suspend sporting events, such as the National Basketball Association (NBA), National Hockey League (NHL), Major League Baseball (MLB), and the annual March Madness NCAA basketball tournament. The WHO, Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and other public health organizations have officially called it a global health emergency and a pandemic.

But the media continued to assail President Donald Trump and his administration for his allegedly slow response to contain the virus. His prime-time television address to the nation led to a critical headline from CNN, which read, “Trump address sparks chaos as coronavirus crisis deepens.”

The media has not consistently reported the initial estimates of the coronavirus’s fatality rate, which varies from country to country. The World Health Organization (WHO) said that on a global level, about 3.4% of reported cases died, which is higher than previous estimates at 2%. But the average was affected by the inclusion of data from Wuhan, where the fatality rate was between two and four percent. Outside of the epicenter of the virus in China, the fatality rate was under one percent. In other words, Chinese cases increased the global average.

Another estimate suggested that of the over 110,000 cases, at least 62,000 have recovered from the virus. In other words, the coronavirus can be a deadly virus, but it is not as catastrophic as the media suggested. Also, the majority of deaths are the elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions, which range from high blood pressure to breathing issues.

Also, the media’s reports ignore the comparison of fatality rates between the coronavirus and other similar viruses in the recent past. For example, the coronavirus’s fatality rate of 3.4% paled in comparison to the Sever Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) at 9.6% and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) at 34.4%.

The mainstream media’s ignorance of statistics and data is jarring; the media should apologize for misrepresenting the data in its overblown news coverage. Instead of projecting calm and temperance, the media is projecting panic and hysteria. The media should be the arbiter of truth instead of pushing fear-mongering headlines to the public.




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