Why did it take so long for the world to tune in to just how detrimental this pandemic could be if not handled properly? Why has it continuously been compared to nothing more than a seasonal flu?
Poor communication. Specifically, poor scientific journalism. Science was not always viewed as accessible to the general populous. Scientists had to try hard, in the 1930s and 40s, to assert its important role in changing the world, and found they could break through by sensationalizing what they were reporting on. Unfortunately, this sensationalism overtook actual truth, with reported stories migrating further from reality.
A headline that asserts that “COVID-19 is no more deadly than the common flu” affords one more comfort than one that reads “COVID-19 is no more deadly than the common flu but has the potential to cripple the world’s economy and healthcare systems if not controlled”. Headlines for scientific articles have devolved into ‘click-bait’. Where the health of large populations is concerned, this is dangerous.
Headlines are meant to be the door that opens to the rest of the article. But too often, these headlines are treated as out of context summaries for what the articles, to their credit, clarify. It has become a necessity to dig deeper, and to constantly question where information is coming from.
In these times of information inundation, it is one’s responsibility to ensure that they are reading and spreading news that comes from a reputable source.
Here are a few news sources that I have found present science-based news accurately, and generally without political bias:
– Wall Street Journal
– The Associated Press
– The Guardian
– The Economist
– BBC Science
Where possible, if you have a sturdy foundation of scientific knowledge, I advise reading primary research papers. Even then, I am hesitant to single out prominent scientific journals, such as Nature or Science, in this list because of their regrettable habit of stifling scientific innovation when it threatens a status quo. By consulting sources who pull their information from an array of journals, you ensure that you are maximally exposed to valuable research.
I would advise that you avoid getting your science related news, COVID-19 or otherwise, from sources like:
– Fox News
– The Sun
– The New York Times
– The Washington Post
– Scientific American.
These sources have a reputation of being politicized in the best of times, and blatantly incorrect at worst.
Throughout much of school and college, you have been asked to cite your sources in academic papers. Now, it is something we must demand of the world’s media output.
Vanessa Gomes – Science Writer