• U.S. Media and Covid - Why couldn't major outlets see the scientific po

    From Ubiquitous@21:1/5 to All on Sun Nov 29 17:15:56 2020
    XPost: alt.tv.pol-incorrect, alt.rush-limbaugh, alt.politics.usa
    XPost: sci.med.diseases

    Recently this column noted the widespread failure of American media to
    put Covid risks in context, and also the disturbing habit of “fact
    checkers” to brand accurate Trump vaccine predictions as false. Now
    researchers from the Ivy League of all places report a striking
    pessimism among major U.S. media outlets in their coverage of the virus compared to scientific journals and overseas media outlets.

    Readers can only guess why U.S. major media outlets in 2020 would be so
    much more inclined than others to downplay potential positive news
    about the fight against the virus. Today’s news coincidentally provides
    a case study.

    The Journal’s Jenny Strasburg and Joseph Walker report today from

    AstraZeneca PLC and the University of Oxford added their
    vaccine candidate to a growing list of shots showing promising
    effectiveness against Covid-19—setting in motion disparate
    regulatory and distribution tracks that executives and
    researchers hope will result in the start of widespread
    vaccinations by the end of the year.

    AstraZeneca and Oxford said their vaccine was as much as 90%
    effective in preventing the infection without serious side
    effects in large clinical trials, though they said the
    vaccine’s efficacy varied widely based on dosage…

    “If there is anyone out there who still doubts that a Covid-19
    vaccine can help us out of this pandemic, the announcement
    today…should surely dispel that doubt,” said Prof. Eleanor
    Riley, an immunology and infectious-disease expert at
    Scotland’s University of Edinburgh.

    The doubters have been highly concentrated in U.S. newsrooms. In a new
    study from the National Bureau of Economic Research, authors from
    Dartmouth and Brown report:

    The negativity of the U.S. major media is notable even in
    areas with positive scientific developments including school
    re-openings and vaccine trials… Stories of increasing COVID-19
    cases outnumber stories of decreasing cases by a factor of 5.5
    even during periods when new cases are declining. Among U.S.
    major media outlets, stories discussing President Donald
    Trump and hydroxychloroquine are more numerous than all
    stories combined that cover companies and individual
    researchers working on COVID-19 vaccines.

    There was an amazing vaccine development story taking place, even if
    many media folk failed to recognize it. As for the specific vaccine in
    the news today, the NBER authors review the recent history:

    On February 18th, the Oxford Mail published a story that
    Professor Sarah Gilbert and her colleagues at Oxford’s Jenner
    Institute were working on a vaccine for the novel coronavirus
    and that rapid vaccine development could be possible given the
    scientists’ existing work and experience with a possible MERS

    In contrast to Oxford Mail’s reporting, the U.S. major media
    outlets of Fox News, CNN, The New York Times, and The
    Washington Post did not begin coverage of Professor Gilbert’s
    COVID-19 related work until late April.

    The U.S. based stories emphasized caveats from health officials
    and experts downplaying the optimistic timeline and past
    success of the Oxford researchers. The earliest available
    (major outlet) U.S. story is from CNN on April 23rd and begins
    with a quote from England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty
    saying that the probability of having a vaccine or treatment
    “anytime in the next calendar year” is “incredibly small.”

    Perhaps Dr. Whitty should consider a career in political polling, where significant forecasting errors are now more or less expected. As for
    the tendency toward pessimism, the authors of the NBER paper see a
    “similar disconnect” when it comes to U.S. major media reporting on
    school reopenings and note:

    …the reporting is overwhelmingly negative, while the scientific
    literature tells a more optimistic story. Oster (2020) collects
    data on school reopenings and COVID-19 infections within
    schools and districts.

    She finds that infection rates among students remain low (at
    0.14 percent) and schools have not become the super-spreaders
    many feared. Guthrie et al (2020) and Viner et al (2020) review
    the available evidence and reach similar conclusions. However,
    ninety percent of school reopening articles from U.S.
    mainstream media are negative versus only 56 percent for the
    English-language major media in other countries.

    Did a distaste for President Trump lead to errors in covering the Covid
    story in 2020? If so, the potential problem is not limited to the press
    corps and its medical reporting.

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