The government’s COVID-19 subcommittee held a news conference on Nov. 9 to discuss nationwide increases in infections this winter. The government itself seems hesitant to call this sudden spike the “third wave,” a term that has become normalized in the media, but the subcommittee definitely sees it as ominous. Some people on Twitter took exception to a point the panel made about foreign residents being a possible cause of the increase due to differences in “language and culture.” However, other Twitter pundits noted that, in fact, the subcommittee was not blaming foreign residents at all — rather, the media’s amplification of the discussion made it seem as if the panel was.

Although an isolated example of how the media, especially TV, can blow something out of proportion, the incident illustrates a tendency to elevate specific aspects of an issue as a means of simplifying coverage. The most obvious form this tendency takes is the daily parade of statistics: how many infections based on how many tests, the number of deaths, serious cases, hospitalizations and so on. Statistics require context to make sense.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.