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Viewpoint: Avoid an ‘infodemic:’ Become your own source of news

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Bridget Paverd

The coronavirus (COVID-19) is dominating news content in unprecedented ways.  How many people are infected? How many have died? Who can get tested? Do we have a vaccine? How do I protect my family? Do I have to pay part-time employees? How long do we isolate?

In times of crisis, audiences rely heavily on media, both mainstream and informal channels. When driven by fear and uncertainty, we can consume information indiscriminately. Unfortunately, rumors, conspiracy theories, bad editing, subjective reporting, and unverified facts create misinformation – and these are often framed in very believable terms. How do you identify fake news?  Well, compared to real news, fake news is inclined to include information that is shocking, disturbing, or triggers anger or anxiety. Any information that fits these considerations should be verified.

So how do you know the news you are consuming on COVID-19 is true?

Follow these four steps and become your own news source:

  1. Support and follow media that is credible and consistently verifies content with links and sources, in other words, media that you trust.
  2. Avoid private online forums like chat rooms. These are a hotbed for fake news and deception.
  3. Select reliable sources to mine your own specific information on COVID-19:
  1. Avoid social media for anything other than social exchanges. As social distancing becomes the norm, social media is an essential way to stay in contact. But it is also the biggest source of fake news and bad advice regarding COVID-19.

We could be enjoying the chill of early fall before the insatiable appetite for news about COVID-19 dies down. That’s six months away. Be selective and be in control of the COVID-19 news you consume. Start now.

Bridget Paverd is partner at  GillespieHall PR and Marketing

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