Alo Lantin

Apr 8, 2020

3 min read

Tackling the Uncertainty of the COVID-19 Crisis

By keeping the public abreast with the facts that are available, reputable news outfits are fulfilling their responsibility as watchdogs for the public. Photograph © The STAR / Michael Varcas

I think many news outfits have been very competent in reporting important news on the COVID-19 pandemics. I see a lot of derivative nonsense and conspiracy stories being published by tabloids like The Sun, but those fear-capitalism pieces are, sadly, to be expected in times of great crisis. From reputable news outfits, though, I’ve seen a lot of good, informative, and inspiring being put out.

How the Virus Got Out was one particularly brilliant multimedia piece I’d found towards the start of Manila’s lockdown. Published in New York Times, the article outlined how the failure of national governments to act on the virus quick enough led to the pandemic reaching the heights it currently has. The article was extremely informative — written in a language that could be understood by the average person, it was accompanied with moving graphics that visualized just how sudden and how massive the spread of the disease was. The article visualizes, very matter-of-factually, how certain policy decisions led to the current, terrible results. It helps providing answers to the public as to how things could have gotten so bad, while holding governments accountable for the decisions they made at crucial times. Articles like How the Virus Got Out, of which I have seen several, are fulfillments of the media’s role as watchdogs for the public.

Aside from these gems of accountability, I’ve seen a number of journalists also focus on stories of hope, which I believe to be vital especially given the current situation. The article ‘The Strength of Ordinary People’: The Creative Ways Italians Are Supporting Each Other During Their Coronavirus Lockdown, is one such article, outlining the measures different Italians had taken up in order for them to stand in solidarity with one another despite being locked in their homes. The SPJ Code of Ethics encourages journalists to give voices to those pockets of humanity that may seldom be told. Stories of hope are often buried in times of great anxiety, such as the current one. Such stories are very important, though, as they give the public something to hold on to when much of what surrounds them is uncertain. By choosing to focus on these stories, Times inspires hope in its readers while showing that, even in places like Italy, all of current human experience is not despair.

By communicating facts, answers, and stories of hope, the most reputable of news outfits are working hard to dispel the fears and uncertainties that are currently gripping the general public. These news outfits don’t shy away from reminding the public that the future still is very much uncertain — but through what they’ve been able to report so far, they’ve at least given something for them to hold on to as they wait out the pandemic.

I also would like to point out an interesting observation I’ve made, about the choice of photographs I’ve seen in the newspaper. I get The Philippine Star, and I regularly see screenshots of teleconference calls as image on the front page. At first I found it to a uniquely strange choice, but as the days went on, I realized what effect it had on me — it made me feel like this level of social distancing was normal and being practiced by all. These photos made our “new normal” seem more comfortable to me, and I felt my anxiety subside. I also remember laughing at them — “I guess we’re all going through the same thing,” I’d think to myself. I’m thankful to The Philippine Star for their image choices.