What possible excuse can there be for this? There is none.
Let’s start with the “six wars combined” stat. That doesn’t count the top six wars in US history in combat deaths, each of which also happen to have had more than 10,000 deaths. The “battlefield” modifier is also a cheat: the headline actually calls deaths from the disease “battlefield deaths”! They aren’t battlefield deaths. Meanwhile, the two earliest major wars in our history both had more than 10,000 military deaths, which is the usual way we tote up such things. The next three combined, The Iraq War (#9), the Philippine-American War (#10), and the Spanish American War (#11) add up to more than 10,000, so to get to six you have to carefully work around the list and drop in some wars nobody remembers.
But who thinks like that? We have have over 40,000 suicides every year. Almost 40,000 die ever year from car accidents. About 35,000 die every year from falls. 10,000 is less than the typical year’s deaths from fire, choking and drowning, and so what?
The headline is yet another cognitive dissonance trick: war is something we regard as especially horrible, so the idea is to get the public to associate the epidemic with wars, which involve violent death. Yeah, let’s really scare them .But the Wuhan virus has nothing to do with wars. The comparison doesn’t belong in the story, much less the headline. Comparing it with other pandemics and epidemics would be misleading enough.
The news media’s coverage of the Wuhan Virus epidemic has been uniformly despicable: sensational, politicized, unreliable. At a time when a competent, objective press and broadcast media is essential—it always is, but in a national emergency especially so—journalism has dived to a new low. None of the news media is beyond reproach: Fox News has frequently taken the opposite approach to the rest, hyping skepticism about the seriousness of the outbreak and various doomsday models, and spreading rumors and speculation as fact.
Hilariously, if you can laugh about it, at this time when the the rest of the mainstream media is constantly engaging in “future news” (the pandemic may do something horrible!) and obviously weaponizing the confusion to assist in its “beat Trump” agenda, Columbia School of Journalism professors joined other professors in the field in signing and circulating an open letter to the owners of Fox News condemning it for “misinformation” and “false statements” regarding pandemic.
Professor Andie Tucher, one of the signatories from Columbia faculty, cited Fox’s partisan coverage as particularly harmful during this time of crisis, saying that “it has always played a sort of game of purveying information that is partisan, that is political, that is intended to shape the partisan debate but calling it truthful,” Tucher said. “And in this case it is just too deadly to let that pass.”
This is so tainted with bias that it’s tragic. Fox News is the dangerous source of partisan news coverage, and a journalism professor who is a supposed expert in “fake news” feels that it is appropriate to pick one news organization to condemn that just happens not to warp news coverage to advance her preferred ideology. These academics really can’t see how incompetent and deluded this is, and how much it hurts their own credibility. Bias doesn’t just make you stupid, it makes you blind.
Want to laugh some more? The author of the Columbia article, Candy Chan, extolling the professors quotes the author of the letter, a Professor Gitlin, as saying that many have told him they were relieved that the experts had finally sounded the alarm—that Fox News was the purveyor of unethical journalism. Pretending (or believing, which is even scarier) that misleading headlines and contrived news reports from the opposite perspective, like the USA headline, do not appear across the full spectrum of the news media, every day, every hour, makes this criticism itself an unethical form of diversion, or perhaps gaslighting.
The Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics, a guideline for journalistic practices and standards, furthers that point, calling for journalists to “expose unethical conduct in journalism,” which Gitlin and professors across the United States have done.“It seems to me important that a profession stands up for its standards, its principles, its ethics, just like every other credential profession does, so this is a service we can do to the public,” Tucher said. “Journalism is a public good and this is one way we can manifest that.”
Wake me when these professors point out what’s wrong with the headline, or what will be on the front page of the Times tomorrow.
I wouldn’t watch Sean Hannity’s show if I was threatened with waterboarding, but his reaction to the letter is spot on:
“They’re guilty of what they accuse me of. I said it in 2007: Journalism is dead,” Hannity said.
Bingo. And in the field of journalism scholarship, so is integrity.
Late addendum: Minutes after I posted the above, I saw this from Professor Turley:
Will any open letters be issuing from the professors to CNN?
I think not.