In this Editorial, I want to look at what has been an ongoing media obsession – that of Covid19 – the coronavirus. It is a terrible disease that has caused much heartache around the world, and in no way am I minimising the tragic effect that this will have had on so many families in so many nations around the world, even though some, if not many, feel that the numbers have been grossly over reported, but I will be addressing the media obsession with this matter.
On the website realclearpolitics.com we read that “Despite the coronavirus spreading rapidly across China early this year, media and search interest remained nearly non-existent until around January 21st when the first case on U.S. soil was reported.”
It must be evident to everyone who looks at news programmes that there has been a relentless barrage of coronavirus news every day and this may, we are told, raise anxiety levels.
Psychology Today had an article in March 2020, entitled “Media, Fear, and the Coronavirus Outbreak.”
They state: “Fear influences how we react to media coverage of health hazards. Fear of disease and contamination is particularly relevant when it comes to epidemics like the coronavirus. A certain amount of healthy respect for disease and contamination is adaptive. But at a certain point, somewhere in the moderate to high range of fear, concern about disease and contamination generates excessive personal distress and interference in daily functioning. It’s for these people that the barrage of threatening media coverage about the coronavirus outbreak may have the most negative impact.”
In fact, it seems to me that the coverage from mid to late January 2020 up until more recently has been obsessive. Collins Dictionary defines obsessing as follows: “If something obsesses you or if you obsess about something, you keep thinking about it and find it difficult to think about anything else.” To me that sums up the general media coverage that we have been subjected to and they have been so caught up in their own world of reporting and analysing that they appeared to have lost all sense of proportionality. The news had become out of kilter.
Until recently, it seemed to be a long time since I last saw any other news of any great importance. We are now starting to see other news being reported on in the UK in spite of the obsession that has gripped the television media in particular. Back on their agenda are news items about other matters but you would have been hard pressed to find such details until more recently.
For the last several months, we have had a daily diet of non-stop information and statistics; we have seen hundreds of people being interviewed, almost always staring at us on our television screens through skype, facetime (and similar), these being scientists, medical specialists, politicians, NHS workers, care home staff and any and every other person that could give even the faintest amount of input on this crisis, admirably aiding the news outlets to fill the 24 hours a day news reports.
It is not unfair to say that once the media in general get their teeth into a story, they can be like a dog with a bone and find it very difficult to let go of. There can be sensationalism and fear can sell. It can cause fear, and bad news can always draw viewers to the television news and internet news outlets.
Television schedules were revamped in the UK to allow the daily governmental update from Downing Street to be screened with a minister, scientists and health officials taking part as were deemed appropriate, and although this was discontinued just last week, we had several months of this. The media are there to report the news but, at times, you could be forgiven for thinking that they are more intent on making the news!
As time passes on, other crises will occur as we rapidly approach the Great Tribulation, and the news-baton will pass from the coronavirus to other serious matters, no doubt, with the usual obsessive approach.
Yes, we do need to know what is going on in the world as we are told to “watch” (compare Matthew 24:36, 42-44) as we approach the end of this age, but let us never be obsessed with what the general media wants to tell us, but rather let us access news in the light of biblical prophecy.
Our weekly Update will continue to keep us all informed with the news that we need to hear about, and in a fair and objective way.