Fear Mongering in the News

Isabel Wilder, Senior Copy Editor

As someone who prides herself on being well-versed in news topics and encourages others to stay informed, I have some issues to take up with media outlets. In the midst of a pandemic, it is difficult to think of anything other than the ever-increasing death tolls and the threat of contracting COVID-19 looming nearer and nearer. My CNN and Washington Post updates fill me with dread daily, creating an overwhelming sense of anxiety in someone who has not left her house in weeks. I am a journalist, yet receiving my daily rundown makes me want to simply cover my ears, close my eyes and block the world’s news out. The passion that I once had for educating others on happenings has left me, replacing itself with angst and frustration. This should not happen.

While I understand that journalists pride themselves on spreading news and eliminating ignorance in people who would not have known better otherwise, it seems that media outlets can only discuss the coronavirus. In a time where social media is easily accessible, our feeds have become clogged with COVID discussions, people trying to cope in self-isolation, news about who else has caught it and occasional misinformation. We have the privilege to report quickly, but we should hold back a little and fact-check before saying something incorrectly. People unnecessarily freak out when they hear about how the virus can spread through 5G cellular data or how the stuff used to clean fish tanks can help cure the virus. These falsehoods create further anxiety, causing the same victims to panic-buy toilet paper and avoid buying Corona beers. Instead of focusing on who said what first, providing readers with easily-digestible tidbits and hard-hitting facts must remain imperative. People cope with fear by educating themselves, so providing accurate, yet concise information should come first.

How I cope with my incessant need to stay informed while managing not to overwhelm myself is to reduce my news intake to certain platforms I trust, like NBC’s news blurbs on Snapchat. I recommend that others who watch the news to keep their news intake to an hour maximum. My news notifications still buzz my phone every hour, but I select to read articles that discuss something new. It does not help to keep reading the same things over and over again. Arguably, a little fear can prove beneficial, as it causes Americans to become more cautious regarding sanitation and social contact. However, this pandemic should not become all-consuming. We should instead try to focus on other aspects of COVID-19, like its effect on mental health and self-care. If you wish to take action, donate to organizations that help bring food to homeless people or provide medical supplies to hospital workers. Become involved to the best of your ability. We are more than being afraid of becoming a negative statistic. 

This pandemic will end eventually. It may seem far from now, but this will all become more manageable in a few more months. If we practice social distancing and encourage our politicians to issue stay-at-home orders, we will flatten the curve and place control back into the hands of the people who previously felt powerless at home. This period of uncertainty will soon pass. But for now, we must shift our energies into doing something more productive and taking care of ourselves by keeping hope.