Where To Get Your Coronavirus News
Every time there is an emergency, there arise rumours and out-right malicious information. If you are worried about sorting out fact from fiction, as well as avoiding one-sided commentary, here are some rules of thumb while reading the news during this pandemic.
1. Know your official medical sources
There’s a difference between information that comes from a confirmed medical source rather than from a Facebook post your friend’s cousin’s uncle shared. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are the best source of information out there and should be your go-to. Their whole job is to keep everyone healthy using the latest factual, scientific information. The CDC’s website lists all kinds of vital information that everyone—from the local and federal government to liberal and conservative media—relies on. The CDC also provides updates on how to avoid getting COVID-19 and the status of the fight against the virus. Their website includes a comprehensive guide to all things virus-related, including the symptoms of COVID-19, preparation checklists, and resources for your business, school, government, or faith organization. If you aren’t sure if something you hear or read is accurate, check the CDC first.
2. Tune in to your local governments and media
Yes, it is true that politicians want to be reelected and that news organizations need clicks. However, you can recognize this and still listen to your local government or local news station. Just like during any other disaster, you might not like your local newspaper, mayor, or governor, but you would be a fool to ignore them if tornados had touched down. If you do think that every authority is completely untrustworthy, then I don’t know how you will ever find the necessary basic information to know that’s going on. No news outlet or leader is perfect, but local media and government have important announcements that are tailored to where you live. In other words, while you might hear about measures or controversies in New York or Florida, that won’t help you if you are in Falls Church or Nashville.
Nearly every day, local governments hold briefings and media organizations disseminate updates on how far the virus has spread and what measures are being taken to fight it. For instance, it is crucial to know if you are under a voluntary vs. mandatory stay-at-home order and whether your area has drive-in COVID-19 testing or not. Such updates are vital so you can stay safe and healthy, know where to go to help or get help, and how to avoid accidentally running afoul of the law. For example, Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, DC, all have health department sites with the latest information.
3. Read both sides of the news
This should go without saying, but you should read news from the left and the right. If you are worried about spin and getting skewed information, this is one way to figure out how things are going or who really did or said what. One way to do this is by visiting news aggregators that try to present multiple points of view, such as AllSides. Another good practice is to Google the pros and cons of something you have a question about instead of just trying to find more evidence to back up what you already believe.
You can also just pick two sources, one conservative and one liberal, to regularly keep up with during this crisis. For instance, if you are reading Vox then you could also read The Dispatch, or if you follow the Wall Street Journal then you also follow The New York Times. These are good habits to avoid falling into an ideological echo chamber in which everything is filtered through the lenses of “all [insert opposing party here] are bad.”
4. Avoid weird, unknown websites
This final tip should also be obvious, but given human nature sometimes we have to really stop ourselves from going for juicy clickbait. Honestly, no matter how enticing a headline is, don’t believe or click on it if the website looks funny. Do your homework. You don’t want to spread lies, get scammed, or download a virus.
Additionally, be diligent about rumors or exciting conspiracy theories being spread on social media. One suspicious example includes recently-created or hijacked Twitter accounts spreading pro-Chinese Communist Party clickbait that falsely claims the virus originated in America. Also beware of random posts or audio recordings by alleged medical experts giving reasonable sounding, but ultimately bunk coronavirus advice. If something looks off and doesn’t have clear attribution, you should steer clear. There’s a lot of scams from people who want to steal your $1200 assistance check to false information from foreign actors like China who want to divide America. Don’t fall for it.
By following these four guidelines, you can stay safe and healthy. Be careful and take this pandemic seriously. You don’t want to be duped or taken advantage of.