How the Media Handles A Global Pandemic


Written by: Danielle Catlett on April 25, 2020

Credit: Danielle Catlett
Customers shopping in Walmart among the barren shelves during the Covid-19 outbreak

The coronavirus pandemic has taken the world by storm. Countries around the world are going to extreme measures to ensure the effects of COVID-19 are limited enough to avoid a total overload of the health care system. Most U.S. states have been under some form of lockdown since the end of March, leaving all non-essential businesses closed until further notice. With the greater portion of the country being restricted to their homes, news has become an even more imperative source for information about the outside world. Though almost all news sources agree that the most relevant and major news to report is the global pandemic of coronavirus, each one uniquely decides which aspects of the virus to cover and how broad a scope of information to use. Most reports share the perspectives of nurses or doctors, information from the government, and finally, glimpses at how COVID-19 has affected the civilian population both here in the United States and abroad. However, some stark differences can be seen in coverage between traditional news sources CNN, Fox News, Buzzfeed News, ABC 7 Eyewitness News and WCIA News.

CNN became a main source of information within my household. This widely used subscription television-based news network was first launched in 1980.  As we were just beginning to understand the severity of the situation in the United States and taking precautionary measures at the state level ,CNN gave a quick look into how countries around the globe are dealing with the coronavirus and the effects it has on the population. With reporters and correspondents stationed in China, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and Spain. In addition, this story was made available through the social media platform Instagram, making it available to a broad range of audiences.  One of the most uniquely reported coronavirus stories reported from CNN ais an in-depth report from inside a New York emergency room. Reporters manage to get as close and personal as possible to doctors and nurses as they fight the coronavirus on the front lines in what has now become a medical warzone.  Another unique aspect of CNN's coverage is it's reoccurring series of podcasts with their medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.  This series manages to address more localized and personal concerns specific to the population.

Fox News, on the other hand, was created with the conservative audience in mind. Owned by the Fox Corporation, Fox News is available through both subscription based and digital television, as well as through online platforms. Fox typically focuses on the political impact of COVID-19 for the U.S. Published just a day after the previous CNN article, Fox News reported on the apparent tension between the U.S. and China as a result of the rapidly spreading virus. The issue at hand was not immediately reported to those in China, nor were other countries advised of the virus as early as they should have been.  CNN also has made similar reports on this issue. However, Fox News places greater emphasis on China being the source of the virus. Fox also addresses the somewhat confusing messages Trump has been sharing as he seeks to begin reopening the country. As protest against stay-at-home orders have begun to break out in places like Michigan, Trump has seemingly shown support for the protestors even though they are not adhering to the social distancing guidelines and potentially further spreading the virus.

In comparison to CNN and Fox News, Buzzfeed News is specifically an internet media source. A study conducted by Pew Research Center suggests that Buzzfeed tends to represent and cater to those who are more left leaning on the political spectrum. Buzzfeed has had a slightly different take on the coronavirus pandemic and has focused on more human aspect of the issue. Through localizing the issue as a problem that affects those in a wide range of social, economic, racial and political backgrounds. From the affects that coronavirus has had on farmers to the issue of student loan payments during the outbreak, Buzzfeed manages to make the issue relatable on a more personable level. Another notable aspect about Buzzfeed in comparison to other news outlets is that a reporter overtly reached out to members of the black community through an article on the website, hoping some would be willing to share their stories and experiences being disproportionately affected by COVID-19.

Chicago's ABC 7 Eyewitness News is one of many newscasts across the country that is owned by ABC Owned Television Stations, a subsidiary of the Walt Disney Company. This news source is available through digital television broadcasts as well as online. ABC 7 Eyewitness News covers the COVID-19 pandemic with respect to the affect it has had on Cook County and the Chicago area, emphasizing strategies that have been implemented to keep up social distancing despite the improving weather. In addition to that, ABC 7 News has also addressed the threat of grocery stores becoming potential terror targets. In addition to this, ABC7 covers educational resources for kids at home, cancellations of major events and festivals, as well as the expectation for Illinois to reach it's peak of COVID-19 cases by the middle of May. Overall, the issues that are addressed in Chicago encompass the major changes that affect the huge, vibrant and diverse community of Illinois residents, both in the city of Chicago and beyond.

In comparison Champaign's very own WCIA focuses on more small-town related issues. WCIA is owned by Nexstar Media Group and can be accessed both online and through digital television in central Illinois. With a much less dense population than Chicago, WCIA offers an abundance of resources on the spread of the coronavirus, new cases and city-wide closings and cancellations. WCIA gives similar coverage of statewide coronavirus updates from the Illinois Department of Public Health and Governor J.B. Pritzker. Most notably, WCIA has interactive graphics that show the spread of the coronavirus by country, and state. These also show the number of tests that have been administered in the U.S. On a lighter note, WCIA also addresses ways that families have been able to come together for fun during the pandemic through a project called Curbside Clicks, in which volunteer photographers take photos of families on their porch.

Though there is a wide range of variation in COVID-19 coverage during this globally unsettling time, each news outlet has its own unique aspect of the pandemic they choose to focus on. This emphasizes the importance of relying on a variety of news outlets rather than solely any single one. Overtime, almost all news outlets have come to agree on the seriousness of the coronavirus. Though the pandemic has shown some signs of slowing down in some U.S. states, the world's battle with this deadly virus is far from over. The general public must continue to focus on their responsibility of staying informed on new developments and staying at home.

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