The person who produces my podcast – Peter Laverock – is a journalist who has written such a good article on the media during the pandemic – that I wanted to share it with you. It is excellent advice that we could all heed.
Using the media wisely during the pandemic.
In days like this we need small quantities of high-quality media.
The multiplication of media outlets in the digital era has not been matched by a multiplication of resources and professionalism. This information vacuum has sucked in a tempest of unverified, partisan and error-strewn ‘news’.
To cite one example, there is a widely shared story of a priest in Italy who gave up his respirator to save a younger patient. Like all good stories there is a grain of truth, but the sources are too weak to justify the worldwide prominence it has reached.
As far as I can tell from websites, the story begins on a local news site in Casigno, a small town near Bologna. With a lot of deaths to report, the news site Araberara, does what is routine journalistic practice, gets transcripts of the eulogies prepared for the funeral. The Mayor of Casigno, Guiseppe Imberti, wrote;
“And I am deeply moved by the fact that the archpriest of Casnigo, Don Giuseppe Berardelli – to whom the parish community had bought a respirator – renounced his will (to use it for himself) to assign it to someone younger than him”: the words are from a Healthcare Worker long course (eg long-serving) of the San Giuseppe di Casnigo Rest Home. (google translation – with contextual comments by me)
So far so good. But a professional journalist given time to use his or her enquiring mind would not leave it there. The Healthcare Worker from the rest home would be the obvious next lead, and then a comment from the hospital. What was recorded on the death certificate? How ill was the 72 year old priest anyway? None of these questions were answered before the story, and a nice picture of the kindly old priest, were spreading all over the world.
Attempts by the professional journalists of Religion News Service to stand up the story concluded that no-one can confirm that it is true. https://religionnews.com/2020/03/24/did-an-italian-priest-really-give-up-his-respirator-for-a-younger-patient/
The simple version of the story of course has enormous appeal in the current pandemic emergency. Self-sacrifice by a well-known local priest to save another is easy to cast as Christ-like behaviour. But a story can have no lasting value if it is not true. This is a classic error in Christian thinking and not something which the gospel writer, Luke, would have put up with. Luke wrote an ‘orderly account’ using sources who were ‘from the beginning eyewitnesses’. The account of Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection is inspiring and would be on a par with many heroes in literature, but if the events did not actually happen then they have no more significance than the TV drama I watched last night.
So, the best way to follow the pandemic news is to turn off the TV and social media for at least 23 of the 24 hours of the day. Pick a bulletin, or online source which is produced professionally to a daily deadline, not one that is of the ‘rolling’ variety. In my journalistic career I well remember the wise old hands in the newsroom looking askance at the TV screen with its ‘breaking news’ banner and muttering, ‘breaking wind!’
One hour per day of good quality news will give you more than enough to keep up with the necessary health precautions and the progress of the Coronavirus disease. Long-form media, such as books, plays and movies will be an adequate distraction for the duration of the restrictions. Just
as we need a walk in the park each day during this lockdown, let’s take a short daily walk in the nicer parts of the news jungle, and no more.
Edinburgh, 26 March 2020
Former BBC radio journalist, Certificate in Radio Journalism, London College of Printing.
Quantum 87 – Nurses; Harvard Cleaners; Imagine; Mermaids and Covid19; The NSS; Abortion; Pink News; Marvel Snowflakes; The Panic Room; 500 miles; Malaysian Bach; Lord of the Rings; Jamaican President; Paul Robeson
And don’t forget the Panic room! Welcome to the Panic Room