An arrangement of British dailies pictured on March 17, 2020. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP) ... (Photo by PAUL ELLIS / AFP via Images) AFP via Images figcaption>
For a time-pressed and fast-paced nation, news headlines are a staplebe essential about the current events unfolding all around us.
When it comes to the coronavirus, those windows have become a bit blurry. Headlines should provide a compelling summary of the content and draw people into a story. But the headlines these days focus too much on attention and not enough on communicating the truth. Because headlines are often the main - or only - thing people remember in a story, readers end up with a compelling but ultimately unnecessary headline in mind.
A few examples may illustrate exactly what's missing, what's at stake, and what we should be doing differently.
Consider a recent healthcare publication title: "Covid-19 patients are 16 times more likely of developing myocarditis: CDC. "It 'sa real eye-catcher - 16 times more likely! What is not stated in the title is that the incActual incidence of myocarditis in non-Covid patients is minimal.
During the study period, only 0.009% of non-Covid patients received this diagnosis, which means that only 0.146% of patients Covid did it. It is only buried in the article that the reader finds that "overall, myocarditis was rare in people with and without Covid-19." The title also says nothing about the quality of the study on which the statistic was based. Small sample sizes and unorthodox survey methods can lead to far-fetched conclusions.
Also consider a pair of recent Ines heads on the latest variant detected in South Africa: "With Delta raging, a highly mutated Covid variant is emerging in South Africa", and "The risks of pandemic worsen on African variants, say scientists. We knew this long before the start of this pandemic. that viruses mutate in variants. Over time, we are bound to see "heavily mutated " versions of the coronavirus. The coverage of this variant, unfortunately, has focused heavily on its mutations and less on the concrete conclusions we have about its transmissibility, lethality, or propensity to evade vaccines. What we lack in fact, we make up for in sensationalism.
What about the result? Headlines like these can fuel the sensationalists among us on all sides of every problem. For some, the title of myocarditis might just be more evidence of how frightening and deadly Covid-19 is, and possibly another reason for major public health restrictions. This latest South African title could stoke despair and blame.
Anotheraside, for those who are already skeptical of government and media messages, these types of headlines can be yet another reason not to believe anything - even reasonable advice based on objective facts.
It is vital that the government and the media do not sacrifice their credibility in this way. As "I noted there is just over a month, personal credibility is the engine of influence. effectiveness during this mass vaccination campaign - their messages must be flawless.
But what could journalists and public health messengers do differently?
Everything first, everyone could benefit from a healthy dose ofs self-restraint. As mentioned above, when facts are scarce, we shouldn't sensationalize the gaps. It undermines the value of facts when they happen. Being honest and neutral with strangers is the most useful way for journalists and public health messengers to keep people informed and maintain their own credibility. A better, more sober headline on the South African variant reads: "South Africa detects novel coronavirus variant, while studying its mutations.
A healthy dose of restraint should also prevent writers from stirring up fear and mistrust in the absence of facts. In situations like these, cold rationality and optimism are needed more than ever. When faced with ambiguous situations, we must resist the temptation to create a negative twist that will attract attention or support a certain program.
Journalists and journalistsPublic health essagers should also ensure that their headlines and reporting are strictly fact-based. Speculative or inconsistent information, which is abundantly available online, even from reliable sources, is inherently unreliable. When reliable sources fail to provide reliable information, critical public trust is eroded and lines of communication cut.
Finally, we should never provide information without proper context. As "I noted at the beginning of pandemic, facts without proper context can easily turn into false truths and inappropriate conclusions.The media have quoted statistics on the historic decline in hospital beds in the United States - from 6 per 1,000 people in 1980 to 2.8 per 1,000 people today - to suggest that our healthcare systemPerhaps even less prepared for a pandemic now than he was 40 years ago. . What gross negligence!
The truth, of course, is that with advancements in technology and emergency measures to increase capacity, our healthcare system was far better equipped at the start of 2020 than it ever was. It was in 1980 - which doesn't mean he was as well prepared as he should have been. But by presenting isolated numbers without significant context - such as details of the vast increase in effective outpatient care and the development of innovative pharmaceuticals that prevent hospitalizations in the first place - reports like this have added to the anxiety needlessly from the public.
If the government and responsible media are serious about helping people make good choices about things as important as vaccinations, they must be evidence-based and be careful. to the informationmations that they broadcast. Messages that do not meet these standards already have the opposite effect.