The Media and the COVID 19 Pandemic
On January 17, 2020, three days before the first COVID-19 case was identified in Washington state, and the Senate was preparing for Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, the CDC conducted a wide ranging Telebriefing Briefing to alert the press of the emerging novel (new) coronavirus and steps the agency was taking to contain its impact in the US. reporters representing the major news outlets participated in the virtual event and a number of reporters asked experts about the virus. The articles written in response to the briefing, setting the stage for reporting about one of the most consequential events of the past century, appeared in the back pages of the news outlets. As the virus led to COVID-19 and evolved into a pandemic, it met a rapidly changing media ecosystem. Reflecting the fractured political landscape of the US body politic, driven by financial challenges and the complexity of the COVID 19 pandemic, the press appeared to split into eco chambers that failed to provide a platform for reliable information, promote citizen public opinion and dialogue.
A year into the COVID-19 Pandemic, as we head into the next phase, with new challenges facing the global community, and the impact of the measures to contain it is becoming more clear, it’s worth looking back to assess how the media performed, how it could have done better as the virus broke out of China and headed to the US, how could it have helped frame public opinion, how can it provide reliable up to date information, how to report on the political and related policy response locally, nationally and globally. By examining critically these areas with a complexity lens we develop a new framework for the media, journalism, and public opinion for the current moment, and for addressing challenging complex problems in society. The media stakeholder focus of the citizen commission will endeavor to provide a framework for more meaningful citizen engagement with societal challenges that allow for a contextualized media framework to include reliable information, investigative reporting, data journalism, accountability journalism, solution journalism, social media.
We start our exploration with revisiting the CDC’s January 17, 2020: Transcript of 2019 Novel Coronavirus Response and following the emerging (mostly US centric) press coverage of the COVID 19 pandemic in order to demonstrate a framework for media coverage of complex issues.