Panic and The Truth: A Discussion During the Coronavirus Pandemic

People fleeing by train from the city of Salerno, Southern Italy.  Ivan Romano/Getty Images
People fleeing by train from the city of Salerno, Southern Italy. Ivan Romano/Getty Images

These days, coronavirus has become a global pandemic and many social problems have arisen along with it. In terms of media platforms, the ethical issue has been significantly focused. The Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera has been accused of endangering public health after it published a leak of a government order to lock down the north of the country. As a result, lots of people fled the region before the regulation was implemented. Meanwhile, they could potentially take the virus and spread it. Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte called the leak “unacceptable” on Sunday, The Guardian reported. The latest episode of The Media Show podcast by the BBC has discussed this issue and opinions will be shown in this article.

Discussions: should journalists ever withhold the truth?

It is evident to say that all the way through the crisis, journalists are constantly making ethical decisions. In this case, they are trying to find a balance between public good and traffic caused by a much bigger story, said in the podcast. Jess Brammar, editor in chief HuffPost UK holds the opinion that she would step back to make a proper consideration. She said it was not because government does not let journalists do that, but the point of bigger principles. In the podcast, editors from the US also confirmed that after discovering a piece of new which is big but also can harm the public, they tend to consult the supervisor or discuss with others before publishing. Otherwise, tough the media company will have a large traffic, public panic can be caused.

Panic and the truth

Another example of panic happened in the market: panic buy. As reported, items including toilet paper, hand sanitiser, pasta and tinned foods are among the items that have been in short supply in many countries. Experts in the podcast hold the viewpoint that this can be the result of media texts, too. Evidences they found were that most of the news which reports the related phenomenon just showed the picture of the empty market, misrepresenting the audiences. Nevertheless, the fact is that governments will ensure the enough food supply, but the journalism did not mention a word of it. 

Personally, I think this is a bad case which can be improved by regulating the way of communicating on media press. However, one editor in the podcast has a slightly different opinion. He thinks that it might rise to the level of misleading, but not necessarily is. He proposed that we should pay attention to the trait which all news has by its nature: selective. What behind the panic buy may be the original purpose which is helping the citizens or warning them. Similarly, when you repost an information in WhatsApp, the aim may just share some information you think might be helpful to the receivers. However, the significant point here is that: there are things you thought to be right but actually not. 

Fears drive misinformation, especially during this fight with coronavirus. The ethical issue here is that what media had done is putting lives in risk. As indicated by Roberto Burioni, a professor of microbiology and virology at Vita-Salute San Raffaele University in Milan: “What happened with the news leak has caused many people to try to escape, causing the opposite effect of what the decree is trying to achieve. Unfortunately, some of those who fled will be infected with the disease.”


We cannot be sure about the original reasons why Corriere della Sera published the announcement before the government’s official document. Perhaps they desired to help people, or they were just trying to be the one who owns the breaking news. Yet, as a public account they should still make sure the authenticity and possible results before publishing every piece of article, but rather they are harming people. Finally, in terms of the coronavirus, all humankinds should respond it with positivity and face the problem head-on.

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