Accuracy in Media

President Donald Trump has declared much of the reporting surrounding the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak as “fake news” and CNN helped prove him right today when they independently decided to label the outbreak a “pandemic” even though the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have not officially done so.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s chief medical correspondent, explained the decision to change from “outbreak” to “pandemic” in an article on

“Starting today, you will notice that CNN is using the term pandemic to describe the current coronavirus outbreak. It is not a decision we take lightly. While we know it sounds alarming, it should not cause panic,” Gupta writes.

“So why now? The World Health Organization hasn’t called the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic. Nor has the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But many epidemiologists and public health experts argue the world is already experiencing a pandemic because of the novel coronavirus. There are now over 100,000 cases and over 3,000 deaths attributed to this new virus. In one day last week, the number of new cases outside of China, where the virus originated, was nearly 9 times higher than the number of new cases in China. This virus has found a foothold on every continent except for Antarctica. In several countries, the number of cases continues to climb.”

According to the WHO, a disease must be widespread on two continents to be considered a pandemic.  That is not currently the case as the virus is concentrated mainly in Asia with a far smaller number of cases spread throughout the world–including the U.S.

Gupta said that he has spoken to several experts and that this change isn’t meant to cause panic, but the very shift in language before health officials have made an official declaration will inevitably lead to some viewers panicking as they see the word pandemic flashing across the screen during reports of the virus..

“I take this shift in language very seriously, and I spent the last several days speaking to public health leaders, epidemiologists and clinicians about the terminology. While some were understandably conservative, everyone agreed that we are now in a pandemic.”
CNN has a duty to practice responsible journalism especially with regard to a story that affects so many lives but has chosen instead to go the alarmist route in an effort to attract more viewers and cast doubt on the sincerity and credibility of the administration’s efforts to combat the epidemic.

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