What Role Does the Media Play During a Pandemic?

The outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has created a global health crisis that has profoundly impacted the way we perceive our world and our everyday lives. Not only the rate of contagion and patterns of transmission threatens our sense of urgency, but the safety measures put in place to contain the spread of the virus also require social distancing by refraining from doing what is inherently human, which is to find solace in the company of others.

Within this context of this airborne threat, social and physical distancing, and public concerns, what has been (and can be) the role of the different mass media channels in our lives on individual, social and societal levels?

Mass media have long been recognized as powerful forces shaping how we experience the world and ourselves. A growing volume of research accompanies this recognition that closely follows the footsteps of technological transformations (radio, movies, television, the internet, mobiles) and the zeitgeist (the cold war, 9/11, climate change) in an attempt to map mass media significant impacts on how we perceive ourselves, both as individuals and citizens.

Are media (broadcast and digital) still able to display a sense of unity reaching large audiences, or are messages lost in the din of mass self-communication? Do social media outlets provide comfort, or are they breeding grounds for misinformation, devaluing human life, and oppression?

Can we tackle the flexibility and seriousness of media technologies to increase the public’s compliance with the safety measures suggested by global health organizations to combat the spread of COVID-19? How can different media outlets and channels for mass communication promote changing responses to foster positive health attitudes and adherence to preventive measures? How do media impact the dynamics in individuals’ private lives (strengthen family bonds versus domestic conflict and violence)?

Within this comprehensive framework of complication, we need to bo open to addressing the media’s impact and its role during the COVID-19.