The Shadow of Coronavirus on Politics in News Coverage


Zihan Wang

self-quarantine in an apartment in Champaign, IL.

The COVID-19 has been a huge impact on this world. The coronavirus is not only impacting the community’s health, but also politics.


Since the coronavirus firstly outbroke in China, the coronavirus has been not only a pandemic, but also a political issue. While the Chinese community in western countries is helping to combat the coronavirus, also Beijing is sending their help, there has been a wave of questioning and criticizing China from politicians in the world.

While although the attack against China in public opinion field could be treated as methods for political interests, as the Washington Post opinion shows, it is still an interesting topic to observe the news coverage on China in different media outlets, and how their news articles reflect the value or opinion they are holding — also the message they deliver to the public.

Background of the News Outlets

Thus, I would like to choose the following 5 media outlets for discussion, and each of them we will pick one article as an example of their characters.

New York Times:

Coronavirus Diplomacy: How China's Red Cross Serves the Communist Party

The New York Times Company owns the famous newspaper, the New York Times. As a liberal media, the New York Times has been widely seen as a flag of liberalism, and the news coverage from the New York Times about China has been negative for a long time. This media outlet has been widely accepted by liberals in the U.S., also in the world.

In the article, I picked above — which “unfold” the corruption and connection between CCP and the Red Cross in China. The message of this news outlet, clearly, is attacking China. And so does other articles contain information both about China and coronavirus.


Coronavirus: China rejects call for probe into origins of disease

The background of this story is that as China and U.S. are quarreling in the origin of coronavirus, as Chinese spokesman denounced that the U.S. spread the virus in Wuhan while Trump administration rejected that statement. And the story is trying to criticizing that China is not cooperative in the probing of the origins.

BBC, as one of the most famous media outlet in this world, is funded by the British government. Although mostly the BBC is treating as an “Independent Media,” there has been questions and criticizing that BBC’s narration in their stories could also be influenced by the propaganda needs of the British government.


China could have 50 times more coronavirus cases than claimed, Trump administration official says

As a conservative media, the FOX is owned by Disney now. The Fox has been a supporter to the Republicans for years. The audience rating of Fox is the highest among all the media in the U.S.

In the news I picked above, the news coverage showed that source from the White House told the reporter that China has far more cases than the 80,000 more cases that Beijing announced. One thing we need to be alert is that, in this article all the information comes from the White House and “intelligence.”

Foreign Policy

In the Post-Coronavirus World, Chinese Power Is Overrated

This article might be the most “not-news” article in all the articles I have picked. Compared to traditional media, the Foreign Policy is more like a journal of diplomatic and international-relation studies. But still, the news coverage and analysis of the ongoing issues could still be treat as newsworthy, for the value it shows in the stories.

The Foreign Policy magazine is owned by the Graham Group. It is one of the most influential magazine of international relations.

And the article I picked above, which is discussing the hot topic recently, that whether China would be more influential or not for its advantages in the pandemic, could be a good example of how they would deliver the message to the readers.


China’s Wuhan ends its coronavirus lockdown but elsewhere one begins

Reuters is among the world top 3 news agency. As a branch owned by Thomson Reuters, the news service is actually partial of its all services — Reuters is also an influential financial data and information provider.

Compared to the BBC, Reuters are more neutral in reporting the cases. In the article above, which is an example I choose, it told the public the message that Wuhan has ended the lockdown while Heilongjiang Province, a northern province in China, is suffering a new surge of cases.

Comparison and Analysis

One thing in common in all the news articles above is that they are all focusing on the coronavirus. However, the difference is more about their standpoints of the message they want to deliver to the public.

The information of the articles is not of vital importance. Actually, they are the least important part of our comparison. The most important part is that, from the organizing of the stories, we can found that the New York Times, the Fox, BBC, and Foreign Policy, are trying to build connections in coronavirus and CCP, the Chinese Communist Party, while the Reuters is more balanced and they are trying to not blend everything with the politics.

And if we take longitude research of the articles in the whole March and April, during the outbreak in the U.S., about the series news coverage conducted by those media, we could find that they have never changed their positions. In fact, nothing changed, only the facts and their angles of reporting.

That has been a long history of these media outlets. But it’s not about the critique of whether they are fake news or not. The similarities and focuses they have could push us to ask a question, how would the reporting shapes the standpoints of the public?

The word “stereotype” firstly introduced by W.Lippman, a famous journalist in 20th century. The word stereotype was from the printing, as a metaphor of the public’s prejudice and cognition towards a group of people or subjects.

It is a great metaphor we could also share here. The different audience of the media outlets shares different stereotype — the conservatives have their stereotypes, as we always say, but it could be also that the liberals share the stereotypes against another group. The stereotypes are simplifying our understanding of the facts, and that is dangerous to us all.

And that’s horrifying, especially when we are doing longitude research on those media because they are all sharing hostility against China in politics. We always say if we want to avoid stereotypes, we need to observe the subjects from different angles. But what if we seem like having multiple choices of information sources, but they are all sharing the same hostility, how we could stay at a neutral position to analyses the information we acquire, and being really informed?

And as we can see now, in the U.S. the racism is raising again because of the coronavirus outbreak — also “thanks” to the great efforts by President Trump — the media outlets are still staying in their traditional position, reporting the news from the angles of criticizing Beijing, how the public could understand that even Beijing and CCP have mistakes, corruptions, and other dirty things, they have valuable experience and methods that could really help with controlling the disease?

The priority now is combating the disease but not escalating the tensions between the two nations, and to the public, the thing they need to understand now is that China is not a monster but also a country has effectively controlled and suppressed the outbreak of coronavirus. The ignorance and arrogance would save no one, but only left pains and death.

And what about the Reuters? Yes, they are staying in a neutral position and reporting the facts but not merging with bias, but what about those people who have already been forged with stereotypes of China? When they receive the facts and information how would they take and understand it?

What’s Next?

My prediction to the next stage of the news coverage would still be pessimistic — nothing would change. All the media I mentioned above, that I believe, they would follow the same pattern they have already done in the past two months, covering the news in the same angle they have done before.

But there could still be turning points. Donald McNeil, science and health reporter for the New York Times, shared what he saw in Wuhan, and trying to inform the public of the effective methods the Chinese government has been using to control the disease. While the media outlets are stuck in the track of narration they have been holding for years and decades, the journalists can still make their own efforts to tell the public, what they have seen, and what they should do.

And together, the coronavirus can be defeated, so does the racism and sterotypes.

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