The coronavirus crisis is quite real and bad enough. It surely does not need any sensationalism or exaggeration. Yet too often it has seemed that the worst-case scenario makes the best and biggest headlines. When a senior war correspondent from a top British newspaper can write that, in corona-hit London, ‘popping out to buy milk might prove as deadly as driving on Kabul’s most suicide-bombed road’, you know that journalism has taken a wrong turn towards apocalypticism.
From the start, too much of the media has seized one-sidedly on the most unrestrained (and unrealistic) estimated death tolls. Morbid daily reports have casually mixed up the numbers dying ‘from’ and ‘with’ coronavirus. (In this, as elsewhere, the experts feeding the media are often as much to blame as any news outlet.) News reports have singled out the atypical deaths of a few younger people with no known health problems, downplaying the fact that those dying with Covid-19 are overwhelmingly elderly and infirm. The result of Apocalypse News has been to further inflame public anxieties.
The news media should put information before the public – not put the fear of God into them.