#CoronaChronicles: Politicized Journalism Undermines Truth

#CoronaChronicles: Politicized Journalism Undermines Truth

I’m really glad that I didn’t listen to my mother and switch my journalism minor because “it was useless and not going to make me any money.” While it is still unclear if the latter part of that statement will hold true, I know for a fact that my mother is wrong about the first part.

The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed many issues within different aspects of American society including socioeconomics, healthcare, prison systems and governmental systems. Journalism is one aspect of our society that is crucial, but like the aforementioned facets of our nation, it’s been compromised for the worst. 

One of the most pertinent lessons that I’ve learned about journalism is that its only commitment is to the truth, which it seeks to find and reveal to citizens so that they can develop informed opinions and self-govern. Because of this, journalism is essential democracy. Now, it is under a serious threat, and it’s possible that people have literally lost their lives because of it. 

Before taking a more serious tone on the pandemic, Fox News particularly politicized it, calling it a “hoax.” The network didn’t frame the pandemic as a “hoax” because it was really believed to be one, it did it to protect the current administration. In doing so, it dangerously misinformed viewers, and arguably contributed to the rapid, undetected spread throughout the country. Furthermore, the network along with other right wing media outlets touted hydroxychloroquine as the cure, which the CDC had to scramble to backtrack and discourage its use for COVID-19. As a result of Fox touting this drug, doctors began writing bogus prescriptions to hoard it, patients who actually need the drug are seeing their prescriptions being backordered and a man actually died after taking it as a “precaution” against the disease after he and his wife heard about it on the news. 

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While these are just a few anecdotes, conservative media has done more damaging coverage of the virus than my word count would allow me to point out.

When different news sources are reporting different versions of the truth, who is the viewer to believe?

For several years we’ve watched President Donald Trump attack various media outlets who would report any of his wrongdoing, and adamantly label them as “fake news,” while praising media outlets who cast nothing but a positive light on him. This not only discredits the work of journalists for voter manipulation, but it causes further polarization within our country that has already proven to be counterproductive enough before the pandemic even began.

When different news sources are reporting different versions of the truth, who is the viewer to believe? There is no such thing as “alternative facts” as Kellyanne Conway persistently pushed as real in defense of Trump. It’s either true or false. When sources try to mold the truth to better fit its narrative or push a political agenda, it’s no longer the truth. It’s now propaganda. 

To be clear, although I don’t agree with many conservative ideas, I’m not saying it doesn’t deserve a voice. I’m saying that whether someone identifies as conservative, liberal or anything in between, they should have access to news that tells the complete truth from all different sides. When a conservative news outlet chooses to be dishonest in its coverage, it does an extreme disservice to not only individuals who identify with their politics, but society at large. If people are being told lies by journalists that they trust, then they can no longer adequately self-govern. 

It is not my opinion when I say that true journalism doesn’t make alliances with politicians. That is a fact. It is also not my opinion when I say that journalism has an obligation to citizens to fully and accurately inform them. That is also a fact. Although much of conservative media has been perpetuating blatantly false or misleading information out of political motivation for some time now, the coronavirus is showing the lethality of it.

It is only my hope that at some point in my lifetime, we’ll see less partisanship in news coverage. I want to see all news outlets fact checking all politicians. I want to read stories that demonstrate fairness and as much objectivity as humanly possible. Trump may be the most divisive president that I’ve lived to see, but his polarizing words wouldn’t have as much power without right wing news media reinforcing them. I just wish that #CoronaChronicles could stop it.

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