COVID-19 News: Facts Not Fear, Or So They Say?


The number of positive coronavirus cases and deaths are steadily on the rise in the United States and abroad. The stay-at-home order has many Americans locked inside their homes leaving them little to do but stay connected to the TV and social media.

While the local and mainstream media outlets claim to preach facts and not fear, the extended coverage is causing concern among Americans. It doesn’t help matters when media outlets appear to be utilizing the worst-case scenarios for grimmer outlooks to draw in viewers.

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An article ‘If It Bleeds, It Leads: Understanding Fear-Based Media’ was posted on the Psychology Today website on June 7, 2011. The article refers to news as a “money-making industry” that doesn’t always stick to the facts.

Author Deborah Serani, Psy.D., a psychoanalyst and psychologist, wrote, “Gone are the days of tuning in to be informed straightforwardly about local and national issues.”

Serani describes news watching as “a psychologically risky pursuit” claiming “fear-based” news stories play on viewers’ anxieties, which are part of the human conscious.

As the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps the United States, Americans are fearful for their health and that of their loved ones. In the early days of the outbreak, the virus was discriminate to adults, seniors, and those with preexisting medical conditions. As time goes on, it seems no one is invincible.

Even though many citizens are complying with the shelter-in-place order, borders have been closed, and hundreds of American’s favorite gathering places are now off-limits, it is difficult to forget about the Times model, which estimated between 160 to 214 million infected and 200,000 to 1.7 million dead over a year. What some media outlets did not mention was the projections were based on the worst-case scenario if nothing was done to slow the spread of the disease.

Are American media outlets inciting fear in Americans to push up their ratings and get more advertisers? Finding the answer is simple, just switch on the TV. It is likely the “BREAKING NEWS” banner is once again flashing on every available news channel. While their intentions may be good, profits often get in the way of facts.

Some media outlets are even utilizing sad cinematic background music to add drama and emotion to their videos and live newscasts. This is a technique that has been utilized by nonprofits like the ASPCA for many decades to drum up donations.

Many Americans will agree with Serani’s view of the media, as they too have experienced occasional anxieties when listening to the recent coronavirus news stories.

It is okay for people in lockdown to take leisurely strolls around the block while staying 6-feet away from others. Utilize these special moments to clear your mind and prepare for the days ahead.

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