Journalism in A Time of Crisis

6 min readJan 19, 2021

The Covid 19 pandemic has taken a toll on many occupations across the globe since news of the outbreak broke towards the end of 2019. The majority of the population has not been in a position where we have had to live in a time of a pandemic and this includes our journalists who have to relay information to the public in order to keep us informed. This article shows comparisons, complications, and challenges that journalists are currently tackling.

Covid 19 or Coronavirus as it is widely known has presented an uncertainty to the world that we have not seen since the 1918 Pandemic virus known as the ‘Spanish Flu’. Modern journalists have been challenged with reporting on an unknown based on the statistics delivered to them by a number of sources. An Nguyen, an associate professor of journalism at Bournemouth University who also has research expertise in health journalism and science has stated, journalists often get bad press for lacking the ability to handle, scrutinise, communicate or even truly engage with statistics, Quite a few see numeracy as “a kind of virus which, if caught, can damage the literary brain”’. Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, the daily updates from Boris Johnson have been the key source of public information for the residents of the United Kingdom, supported by the journalists delivering tangible and understandable information to ensure the public are fully informed about the latest information on the virus.

By August 2020, 86% of the UK public knew what R- Zero meant, explaining how contagious and infectious this disease was while 77% knew what the antibody test was. These statistics portray the positive effect that journalism has had throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, making information easier for the public to understand in a time that they are overwhelmed by numerous reports and sources of information from the many types of media available e.g Facebook and Twitter.

Stay Home on Burst

An Nguyen in his article on ‘Coronavirus, statistical chaos and the news, one year on’, states that when analysing journalism’s performance during the pandemic, we should not look at what the negatives are solely but learn from both the positives and negatives. He describes the performance aschaos, resilience, innovation and order,’ showing the four stages journalist have battled throughout the duration of the ongoing pandemic. The current level of detail in respect of statistic reporting is unprecedented and we have been bombarded with death rates and contracted cases not just on a daily basis but often many times a day from TV, Radio, Newspapers, and social media, we have not encountered this type of reporting before.

In Covid 19 news and information: consumption and attitudes the article, Nine in ten people (90%) accessed news about Covid-19 at least once a day in the last week. This was an increase from 88% in week 29, but below the high at the start of the lockdown (99% in week one),’ this data conveys that in the first national lockdown, the majority of the public tuned into the news to know what was currently happening with coronavirus due to the uncertainty that it presented back in March 2020. Concerning the drop in percentages of people tuning in to the news in the second national lockdown during November, the figures not being as accurate as shown, the public began to lose their confidence and faith in the accuracy of the information. Although historically we look to the News to give accurate information about current affairs the data shows that the NHS remained one of the most trusted sources of information with 90% of people stating they trust the NHS, providing evidence of the faith lost in journalists when reporting on the TV and on Radio.

The early first lockdown hysteria and fear was dominant and many looked to the daily news updates for comfort and information with the hope of positivity as there was nothing else to look forward to. Online news, newspapers, and daily news briefings were the only way to make the public aware of what was happening around them. An article by, Sky News states that ‘They say they never see any positive or uplifting stories and then, in the same sentence, add: “But I’ve stopped watching really.”’Although I understand what the public is projecting, not all stories published on the news describe the negative side of coronavirus and if viewers were to carry on watching the news they would see the work of our NHS heroes, news about carers, and positive news about rolling out of vaccines. The public has lost faith in journalism and failed to realise that although many news stories are bringing depressing news daily, many positive things are also being aired including a possible vaccine that brought hope for a better future sooner.

Although incorporating figures into everyday news, as the need for the public to know the statistics and the daily updates is apparent, I do believe the number of stories regarding deaths and cases of coronavirus is overloading the public and causing unnecessary hysteria. The number of questions and answers journalists have to address daily, in this time of crisis is soaring and the demand for competitive journalism is increasing. With journalists being restricted with limited access to events to gather information due to the current stay safe measures and the demand for the public to know everything. Journalists from many news outlets are working harder than ever to be able to publish all necessary information and many local newspapers have had to fold as the financial demand is too high and they are not able to compete with larger chains of journalism.

On the other hand, in an article on Sky News in April 2020, suggesting what is needed for the public is, ‘government doing its best…a more constructive contribution, more hope, optimism and faith,’ but when journalists relay information the emotional appeal cannot always be available as the essential role of journalists is to hold the government's words to ‘account’. As well as the content published by journalists being factual, their second job, so to speak, is to explain why certain things have happened and how and when it will be fixed, which throughout the coronavirus pandemic I believe journalists have done extremely well. Journalists have provided us with the amount of information we need and what the government is doing to combat the virus. In particular, BBC News has given us a step by step guide of what happens during a vaccine process. This is an example of where journalism has guided us throughout this pandemic and helped us to understand truly how the vaccine process works in a mass vaccination centre in Essex, shown on BBC News.

The View Inside a Mass Vaccination Centre on BBC NEWS
Step by Step Guide in a Vaccination Centre in Essex

This step by step guide published on BBC News is the perfect example of how journalists have guided us throughout the pandemic, another way to show us that journalists create more positives than negatives and help us more than disheartening us. Journalists are doing what they can to stay afloat during these unprecedented times and doing everything they can to please their audience, the government, and scientists and can only report on the information they are given therefore as this information is ever-changing I think they are doing a pretty good job!

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A 20 year old English Degree Student. Blogger, fiction lover, music enthusiast and active shopper!