Saturday, June 6, 2020

The Public's View of the Media

The media for some time has been concerned with the coronavirus pandemic and how it has changed the lives of the citizens. A professor in Social Media and Politics gives the readers of the Catholic Peace weekly some of her reflections on the subject.

Risk is always a matter of media attention. Risk means the likelihood of bad things happening and serious consequences. Media usually regards negative events and accidents as important news ​​and warns and monitors because it contains uncertainty.

The most recent risk factor in our society is the new coronavirus infection (Corona19). The degree of objective risk here is large and consequently the subject of intensive media coverage. So, how does the media look at the danger of corona19 that we are all experiencing now?

The media's customary attitude toward the dangers is revealed in the reports on Corona 19. In the pandemic situation, the press overlooked a lot. The major headlines were used to relay the risk in real-time to the countries with the largest number of infected people. Certain words such as 'panic', 'horror' 'serious disturbance', were used repeatedly causing excessive fear. The stigma of placing a negative frame on a specific region or group was not much different from reporting in other areas of risk in the past. Care must be taken in that the stigma of the media can cause the public to fear or induce anger towards certain groups.

On April 28th, the Korean Journalists Association, the Korea Federation of Broadcasters and Journalists, and the Korean Science Journalists Association jointly formulated the 'Infectious Disease Reporting Rules' and provided expressions or directions to be wary of when reporting infectious diseases. The rules require closer attention, especially in the emergence of new infectious diseases. 

The newer the unknown, the more dangerous and the need to guard against speculation and exaggeration and the need to use objective and verified information. The press reports newness or novelty as an important news value, consequently, the way a new infectious disease is reported will have a great social impact.

The media's approach to dealing with risk is usually fragmentary. They continue to pay attention to the conflict and turmoil caused by the dangers of Corona 19 but insufficient to lead positive discussions. For example, our media released reports of unprecedented online school openings, postponement of the University Scholastic Ability Test, and the conflicts over the adjustment of the opening time. On the other hand, the New York Times and the BBC paid attention to the situation of children who may have greater fear and anxiety than adults. It provided detailed instructions on the educational methods needed to alleviate the fears of teenage students, the importance of accurately communicating Corona19, and how to prevent the infection. In our media, only 'on-site'  reports ” but no 'education'.

The public is very sensitive to negative information rather than positive information and tends to trust negative information when fear and anxiety are felt. Reports about danger can't help but be negative. However, the excessive competition to break the news and lack of objectivity will not help the public to properly recognize and prevent the risks involved.  It should be recalled again that the media are risk management agents and mediators between the public, experts, and policymakers.

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