Coronavirus News is Dangerously Skewed

This was the front page of Al-Jazeera yesterday, a Qatari news agency.

Screen Shot 2020-05-08 at 8.27.05 AM

I’d hoped Al-Jazeera would be the one major news network not biased towards Europe and the US. Instead there are four geographical areas mentioned on their front page.

The world….. Says it all really

News agencies are making 2 major errors that we need to wake up to, if we want to have a truly global perspective.

Error 1) Not shifting their focus to match the outbreak

As the focus of the outbreak shifts around the world, the focus of the news should shift with it. But it hasn’t. If you follow major news sites you would think that the biggest problems are still in Europe and the USA. But the virus has now gone global. It’s not all about Europe any more.

Yesterday, 12 out of the 15 countries with the highest number of cases were NOT European or the USA. This may surprise some people. Would you have guessed that India, Peru and Turkey are in the top 10?

Coronavirus cases yesterday

Russia and Brazil daily cases have reached a staggering 10,000. This peak EXCEEDS the peak of any European country. Yes you heard correctly, Russia and Brazil right now suffer from more cases every day than Spain or Italy ever had. The front page of coronavirus news should be full of stories from Russia and Brazil. There is no shortage. In the last week 3 Russian doctors appear to have committed suicide by jumping out of windows perhaps due to stress and pressure from the government. You may wonder why you haven’t heard that story, but hopefully it’s becoming clear.

Error 2) Reporting like the coronavirus outbreak is improving

Things are getting better right? Much of the focus of the media is about improving case numbers, flattening of curves. How countries are going to lift restrictions and  re-open their economies. How England is re-opening schools. How Spanish Children can now go outside, how German football is about to restart. Success stories are good and we should share them, but the media should not give the false image that the outbreak is getting better.

One headline on the Al Jazeera front page says it all “world gambles with looser lockdowns, risking coronavirus revival”. As if coronavirus has now improved, but could get worse if we aren’t careful. This is a gross misinterpretation of the global reality.

Because coronavirus on a global scale HAS NOT IMPROVED. For the last month, the daily number of cases has flatlined. Coronavirus globally as bad as it ever was.

Coronavirus Daily new cases

Where are the reports on the escalating situation in South America? On the struggle to control the virus in India? On major outbreaks in Eastern Europe? The stories are there, but they aren’t on the front page of the news websites.

The media focus should shift with the virus. But it hasn’t. I guess that’s the world the media lives in. A EuroAmerican centric world. I had hoped for better from journalists around the globe.

But we don’t have to live in the false reality of the global media. We can seek out the stories that don’t get shoved in our faces. The stories are there if you dig just a little. One approach is to visit a tracking website like worldometer and see which countries have the most cases. After that you can google those countries “coronavirus in Russia” or “Coronavirus in Peru” and the stories are there. You’ll even find them on the major news networks, tucked in behind their Eurocentric front pages. Yes this is more effort than just typing in but I think the world outside Europe and America deserves our attention too.

Let’s put in that little bit of extra effort to have a truly global perspective.

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3 Responses to Coronavirus News is Dangerously Skewed

  1. Peter Hill says:

    Even more interesting than usual Nick. I will share.

  2. Jean Hollis says:

    Nick, I have been somewhat surprised by this blog, as Ray and I watch Al-Jazeera news to get more world news than we do by tuning into local TV stations. We have seen regular updates about what is happening in Russia and Brazil for instance. Even Aotearoa has featured on the days we had zero deaths. Maybe we watch at different times to you.

  3. ntlaing says:

    Thanks Ray and Jean. I haven’t watched anything, we only get internet new here so that’s what I’m commenting on. Al Jazeera are usually the best, and it’s good to hear that their video news is doing a good job globally!

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