The news, on re-opening businesses: yay or nay?

by Aki Akhauri

A restaurant sign saying the restaurant is closed
Many public places, including restaurants, are closed indefinitely because of lockdowns and stay-at-home orders. (Credit: Aki Akhauri, March 31, 2020)

            Since several states have instituted lockdowns or stay-at-home orders because of the covid-19 pandemic, many businesses have had to shut down. Businesses being shut down leaves many people without an income, so there has been a push to re-open businesses even in the midst of the pandemic. I’ve picked one article each from several news sites to use an example of how they are covering this. Here’s how different news sources are covering the issue of re-opening.

NPR: Around The Country: How States Are Planning To Reopen (Apr 21)

            NPR is generally very factual in its reporting, and is a well-known news outlet. Due to being a non-profit, it does not have to worry so much about what sponsors think, though it does still have sponsors.

            This article in particular focuses on three different cities: Chicago, LA, and Dallas. These cities are different in where they are on the path to reopening. At the time this article was written Chicago’s stay-at-home order was still in full effect, while Texas was starting to reopen some businesses and LA was having protests about reopening.

            The article mentions the falling oil prices as a reason Texans are anxious to reopen soon, to keep the economy going. This is an important point and one I hadn’t considered before. It also talks about the rationale behind the Chicago and LA stay-at-home orders. It doesn’t say one solution is better than another, and remains neutral on this issue.

WESH: Florida tourism industry plans to ease into reopening (Apr 22)

            WESH is a local news station for the Orlando, FL. It is affiliated with NBC.

            I decided to analyze one of my local news organizations since I’ve been using it quite a bit. Florida’s tourism industry is one of its most important sources of income, so it makes sense for local news to report on this specific issue when talking about reopening businesses.

            This article is very short, and is accompanied by a package recorded right off the air. I think that’s strange – they didn’t even cut off the end part where Michelle thanks Jasmine for throwing it to her after the package. The b-roll of the package itself was confusing as well. It didn’t seem to have anything to do with the voice-over or the soundbite. Even though this is important information to know, I found myself distracted by these issues.

            Unfortunately there aren’t many local news sources in this area besides WESH and clickorlando.com, and that one doesn’t even sound like a news site.

Vox: “I’m being forced to choose between my health and my job”: Georgia’s controversial reopening plan, explained (Apr 23)

            Vox is a company that, from what I know, is famous for the videos it makes explaining things. I’ve seen them on YouTube a lot. They are a left-leaning site.

            I can tell just from the headline and sub-headline (“Georgia’s governor is determined to reopen the state’s economy, ready or not.”) what the tone of this article is going to be. It looks like a relatively long article, but it repeats itself a lot. It also doesn’t flow well. It feels disjointed. It mentions something, goes to talking about something else, and then goes back to the first thing paragraphs later. If I didn’t have to, I wouldn’t finish reading this article.

Fox: Trump touts states opening ‘safely & quickly’ from coronavirus lockdowns (Apr 28)

            Fox news is famous for being a right-wing news outlet. It has a lot of viewers on its TV channel. Fox is known for generally being very supportive of President Trump and his policies. If Trump is more concerned with the economy than with stay-at-home orders, it’s likely Fox will be too.

            Fox’s coverage of the coronavirus has changed a bit over time. At first, it tried to dismiss by claiming that it was being blown out of proportion. It’s still reporting on conspiracies, though, like the one being investigated about Wuhan releasing the virus on purpose.

            This article on re-opening is a bit strange. First of all, it discusses President Trump’s tweet while quoting part of the tweet, then it quotes the whole tweet, and then it embeds the actual tweet. It does this three times in the same article. It does talk about other information, like the number of cases, but mostly it quotes Trump and repeats what he says. I could just as well go read Trump’s twitter feed rather than reading this article.

BBC: Coronavirus: This is what reopening in US looks like (Apr 29)

            BBC has reported a lot on the coronavirus, but most of the stories I saw on their front page this last week were about Europe and other countries, not the US. This makes sense since the BBC is located in Europe, and that’s where its primary audience is. I don’t know much about the BBC since I don’t read them often, being in the US and all. From what I remember, they are a reliable news source.

            This re-opening story was a story I was surprised to see, because I didn’t think the BBC would want to do such a local American story as certain places in Georgia reopening. The video was a bit boring though. I would’ve liked to go more in depth on any of the 3 places or situations mentioned in the story. Also, why was there music? There didn’t need to be music, and the music chosen set the wrong mood entirely.

            I didn’t feel like I got much out of watching the video, and frankly, it felt like a waste of time. Watching a news video should not feel like that.

Conclusion

            There’s a lot of coronavirus coverage out there, but more doesn’t necessarily mean better. Covid-19 may be ruling our lives right now, but not everything we see about it is informative or worthwhile. We’re all trying our best to put out good coverage, but it doesn’t always work out. We also have to be aware of which source we’re getting out news from. This is always important, but it’s even more important when we’re in the middle of a crisis. We have technology and we have ways to get good information now, unlike during many crises in the past, so why not use them to our advantage? The past doesn’t have to repeat itself.

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