Alarmist media and our children – the importance of a credible source

Today I received an email from a physician circulation with the headline:

“A Medical Worker Describes Terrifying Lung Failure From COVID-19 — Even in His Young Patients”.

This extremist language caught my attention given the physician-centric venue. I unfortunately found the telltale signs of ulterior motive immediately: alarmist taglines and shout out quotes with extreme language abound.

To be clear: any individual who is forthright about their credentials, whether doctor, nurse, respiratory therapist, physical therapist, etc. can be a credible and valuable source of information. However, this “medical worker” (respiratory therapist) was listed as “anonymous”, unfortunately further supporting a less-than-benevolent motivation to the writing of this article.

Anonymity is all too often a convenient approach to veil oneself from the consequences of propagating misinformation (often for ad-revenue).

In times as trying as this, with so much media trying to steal “clicks” from unsuspecting readers, I want to encourage everybody to seek credible sources for their information.

This article, filled with such extremist and catastrophizing language, not only failed to list credible sources, but more importantly, failed to provide the incredibly important sense of calm and empowerment that we need as individuals and as a society. Instead, calling out quotes like the following:

“You’ll try to rip the breathing tube out because you feel it is choking you …”

and

“Even if you survive … it can also do long-lasting damage.”

What I find even more concerning about this type of media reporting is the effect it has on our most emotionally vulnerable population: our children. Our children are the least skilled and experienced in distinguishing credible from predatory information. They are also the ones whose lives may be the most disrupted by this crisis, as their entire life structure as they have known it may have just fallen apart (with school closures, distancing from their friends, cancelled sports leagues, etc.).

This type of journalism, without emphasis on action items to help us all cope with this disaster, nor with an equalizing calmness to counter its unmitigated alarm, may significantly harm such vulnerable populations.

I was further disappointed to see this article circulating amongst our physician channels of information. While I hope my fellow doctors would have quickly looked past this sensationalist article, its presence suggests a lack of moderation by those who should know better.

As we slowly end our second week of shelter in place, I urge all readers to remember the significant impact of our environment on our well-being. The media constitutes a progressively larger part of our environments, and we must be vigilant of the role negativity can play in our well-being.

And we must protect the vulnerable from it far-reaching influences.


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