Public should balance ‘news diet’ during coronavirus pandemic

Camille Elemia
Public should balance ‘news diet’ during coronavirus pandemic
'Your life depends now literally on the information that you are receiving…. The people need to act like their lives depend on the information they are getting,' says Steve Herman of Voice of America

MANILA, Philippines – Media executives and journalists urged the public to balance their media diet and rely only on facts amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Rappler CEO Maria Ressa, South China Morning Post CEO Gary Liu, and Voice of America White House Bureau Chief Steve Herman made the call on Friday, May 8, in a webinar hosted by the Milken Institute Asia.

“Now more than ever, information is power and we’re seeing that play in a whole different way now. Facts are crucial and lies can kill,” Ressa said.

Herman said that people must take the pandemic seriously by being critical and by depending on reliable media sources.

“Your life depends now literally on the information that you are receiving…. The people need to act like their lives depend on the information they are getting,” Herman said.

“Just like you won’t eat a single particular thing daily to stay alive, balance your news diet for your health and survival. Keep track who is reporting information that turns out to be accurate and those that turn out to be inaccurate and sensationalist,” he added.

Future of media post COVID-19

Ressa and Liu expressed hope that the industry would survive the pandemic.

“I will say there is optimism to see the world over that credible major news organizations will have rise in interest and traffic. Of course, monetization does not come along with it because of the conditions of the pandemic,” Liu said.

“But the fact that people are rushing to news organizations for information is heartening. We weren’t sure that was gonna happen. News matters, high quality journalists all over the world are kicking butt all over the world… hoepfully that relationship [between public and media] holds when all this ends,” he said.

Liu also pointed out that technology companies like Google and Youtube have finally taken more steps on accountability – something they have been repeatedly asked to do in the past.

They have now started de-prioritizing in their search results accounts that were clearly made to distribute false information.

With the pandemic, these companies also reconsidered their policies on “bad” or crisis news, which usually do not attract advertisers.

“Some of the actions they’ve been doing recently, we’ve been asking them for years. The question now is whether or not this is momentary, sticky, or will continue,” he said.

As for the future, Ressa said media outlets and other businesses should stop looking back and start creating the future they want given the new global reality.

“The world as we know it will never be the same. Don’t moan the past, look at where we are today and try to actively create what you want the future to be.” – Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation issues, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com