News that refuses to go

By Alex P. Vidal

“The news media are, for the most part, the bringers of bad news… and it’s not entirely the media’s fault, bad news gets higher ratings and sells more papers than good news.”—Peter McWilliams

BOTH the local and national news in the Philippines were about the Wuhan coronavirus these past weeks, and there are signs the furor will not leave the front page and prime time news until the next two weeks.

We estimate that the coronavirus story is now occupying ninety percent of the reports in any media entity on the TV, newspaper, radio, Internet.

Since many people are following the story with utmost curiosity and suspense, they think the virus has become a real and present danger that threatens the core of their existence.

Media has the power to either bring sadness or joy to the public.

Since the coronavirus story is largely about fear and death, those who follow it may be wallowing in melancholy and grief even if they have not been directly hit by the pandemic.

As long as the coronavirus remains the hottest topic globally and nationally, it will be the hottest topic locally.

Controversy sells.

Media outlets in the Philippines operate heavily from the commercial point of view.




When the media start to bury the coronavirus story in the middle and inside pages, it’s when the mass hysteria and paranoia of many people will also start to dissipate.

Let’s hope that the death toll being reported from China and other countries affected by the dreaded virus will not bloat in the next days to come. Otherwise, it will be a coronavirus story in the headlines all over again.

It’s better to report it though and let the people decide and react rather than suppress it and keep everyone in suspended terror and totter in uncertainty.

While the media is focusing on the coronavirus story, let’s not forget other the important news—stories with relevance to our day to day life like prices of basic commodities, rice supply, graft and corruption in government, war against illegal drugs and human rights violations, peace talks, economy, climate change, etcetera.




THE latest report from the World Health Organization (WHO) said the international community has launched a US$675 million preparedness and response plan covering the months of February through to April 2020 to fight further spread of the new coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak in China and globally, and protect states with weaker health systems.

“My biggest worry is that there are countries today who do not have the systems in place to detect people who have contracted with the virus, even if it were to emerge,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.

“Urgent support is needed to bolster weak health systems to detect, diagnose and care for people with the virus, to prevent further human to human transmission and protect health workers.”

The Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan (SPRP) for the new coronavirus has reportedly laid out activities and resources needed by international health organizations globally, including WHO, to implement priority public health measures in support of countries to prepare and respond to nCoV-2019 for a period February-April 2020. The objectives of the plan are to limit human-to-human transmission of the virus, particularly in countries most vulnerable if they were to face an outbreak; identify, isolate, and care for patients early; communicate critical risk and event information; minimize social and economic impact; reduce virus spread from animal sources; address crucial unknowns.

WHO said the plan focuses on: Rapidly establishing international coordination and operational support; Scaling up the country’s readiness and response operations; and Accelerating priority research and innovation.


(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)