A very basic and simplified analysis of the impact Coronavirus has on the further decline of the media industry.
The world has been going rather crazy for a while now. Even before the pandemic, there were people who claim that the Earth is flat or that we have experienced social experiments conducted on us by social media and so on. The pandemic however took things a step further. We’ve already witnessed some politicians U-turning on some major life-costing decisions, with close to zero political consequences. In the meantime, the news networks stepped up in the race to capture the larger audiences and begun bombing us with an unprecedented avalanche of negative news. Is Coronavirus playing part in the further decline of the media industry?
Media coverage at a glance
As many of us know, media coverage is when a media network or news agency gets journalists to cover a story. The angle, from which they cover the story usually defines the media’s audience, from the editorial point of view. The general journalistic standards however dictate to “strive to serve the public with thoroughness and honesty”, rather than letting the editorial view alter the facts one way or another.
It’s simple when covering a sports event because there’s a clear numerical result. When we move on to current affairs, things become more blurry, the journalistic standards should nevertheless remain the same: state all facts and add an angle, that could be for example the impact of the particular affair on the economy, the elderly or the business sector and so on.
When it comes to traditional media, this has mostly been a common practice, unless the network wanted to push its own agenda at the expense of thoroughness. Certain borderline media, such as Daily Mail or The Sun however sometimes deploy the practice of cherry-picking certain facts to fit the intended angle, in order to push an ideological agenda, respectively conducting sensational “journalism” to sell more copies. These and other similar malpractices in the world of media are sometimes called “yellow journalism”.
Race for the audience numbers
I apologise for stating the obvious above, I only wanted to establish the essential principles and practices of journalism before moving on to the impact, I believe Coronavirus has on the further decline of the media industry, although that process had begun some time ago.
My humble observation is, that the unprecedented race to capture more readers/viewers that took place in the world of media is causing a rather steep decline of journalism or shall I say, a rise of yellow journalism? I admit that the repetitive sensationalist headline dominance has been around for a while now.
Things have however recently evolved even further because previously distinguished news agencies have begun to deploy the yellow journalism tactics to keep up with the race. In my humble opinion, the whole industry has shifted a bit, ranging from an occasional one-sided provocative clickbait article in a reputable paper up to a major shift of the formerly yellow news organisation into broadcasting false news or even conspiracy theories, but we’ll get to that later.
Let’s look at the example of “yellowing” journalism first. Imagine that a certain reputable organisation tries to capture your attention with a headline: “Spanish army finds care home residents ‘dead and abandoned'”. The actual text however fails to mention any particular cases of abandonment. The article furthermore avoids acknowledging the full story, which was in fact that the protocols (in place) prohibit the care home staff from touching the dead bodies in order to prevent further contagion, according to El País.
Dramatic headlines vs the under-reported good deeds
Dark, cherry-picked semi-fabricated facts that inform us of what have we become: “the elderly abandoning bunch of inhumane beasts”, instead of “the care workers did as they were told but the overwhelmed funerary services took longer to respond”. Regardless of the yellow journalism element there, it brings us to an interesting question: Do people really prefer bad news?
We all know that right now, there is a lot of good deed-related news to report on but they don’t seem to be covered adequately. The majority of the media industry doesn’t “go yellow” in order to create good news, not to mention the zero efforts to balance between negative and positive stories published. I guess that people like bad news, especially if it’s not about them. The bad stuff is, after all much louder than the good deeds, right?
Other under-represented stats
Furthermore, it would be arguably helpful, to put things into a perspective. Because while we’re being all scared by COV-19 deaths, the statistical numbers of all deceased people monthly are still far greater. It’s true that we’re still learning about COV-19 and the data are still miles away from being complete and processed in order to be able to assess the situation, but we already know how many people die off traffic accidents, smoking, heart attacks and other causes.
For instance, according to OECD, “the main causes of death in EU countries are circulatory diseases and various types of cancer, followed by respiratory diseases and external causes of death. Circulatory diseases continue to be the leading cause of death across the EU, accounting for over 1 900 000 deaths in 2015.” (source: OECD iLibrary)
In spite of alarming death rates, the headlines of such are not represented adequately in the media, if compared to the current pandemic. This is of course not to downplay the significance and future impact of Coronavirus, especially because we don’t know yet much about the virus yet, as mentioned above. Only time will show where will COV-19 appear on a 2020 update of the graph below and let’s hope that it will not make it to the top 10 causes of death in the annual statistics.
There are numerous examples of journalistic malpractices and manipulations with facts. The way the traditional media report the news has been altered in recent years. Perhaps, reporting is a wrong term to be used, perhaps, we should call it pushing the stories, because that’s what they do, especially if they believe people would make them more trending by commenting, even by hating them. Scaremongering stories.
And that’s the “traditional media”, while there’s also a whole new level of outlets serving information to the general public, the so-called ‘Alternative Media’ and Social Media, which we’re going to talk about in the second part of this piece. That means that we’ll be discussing even lower, actually much lower standards and practices…
Stay safe and well everyone 🧡
The featured photo was taken the Internet. Author unknown.