Sensationalistic spread of panic about the coronavirus

[Review: Wuhan nurse: Do not go out, do not go to parties, do not eat out. There are 90,000 infected with coronavirus, not 2,700]


In the battle for greater readership, which is unfortunately still the primary, if not the only factor bringing money from online media advertising, one of the most prevalent phenomena is sensationalist writing, whether it is the overall text or just the title. Even more unprofessional and frightening is when an omnipresent fear is used with almost no supporting evidence. It is certainly one of the gravest “sins” in journalism. This is the case in the article we are analyzing here.

Link to the original text: Wuhan nurse: Don’t go out, don’t go to parties, don’t eat out, there are 98.000 infected not 2.700

Date and time of publishing: 28 January 2020

Review date: 29 January 2020

Reviewer: Sašo Spasoski

This multimedia article is no doubt, at first glance, an attractive read, due to the preoccupation of the Macedonian public with an epidemic that could spread anywhere. The main point in the article is that a nurse from Wuhan, which is the heart of the epidemic of the new coronavirus, claimed that the number of infected is over 30 times more the number officially reported by the Chi nese government.


A Chinese nurse from Wuhan, who wears protective suit and a mask and cares for the infected with coronavirus in the city, claims that 90,000 people have been infected in China, and not 2,700, according to official figures.

Her warning from the heart of the epidemic comes as the Chinese government faces accusations of censoring critical thinking and concealing the truth about the crisis, the text says.

It is well known that China is at the top of the list (because of its population) when it comes to internet censorship and stifling critical thinking, but why is the media that published this article sure the nurse is telling the truth? It may be a malicious fake story of the person appearing on the video.

Also, at 28. January, 2020 official figures as of day before were about 4,500 infected in China, not 2,700, according to the article published this afternoon. Official figures are published by Johns Hopkins University, which has no connection to the Chinese government propaganda and is trying to objectively monitor the outbreak of the new coronavirus. The development of the situation can be followed here.

We can also perceive the situation from another angle, i.e. that this Chinese woman is sincerely convinced in what she says – the video shows she is a medical nurse wearing a protective suit. But on the other hand, that does not mean that the woman has the right information. She probably works with patients, but in a hospital, and even if she does work in the field all the time, she may not have the complete, but only partial insights. In addition, even getting information by colleagues on things she did not witness herself and then combining the information, it does not guarantee that she has understood correctly. Because she may only work in Wuhan City and have no contact with colleagues in the Hubei province, let alone the whole of China!

A relevant source for an epidemic situation is always a health institution or operational headquarters to fight the epidemic, not an individual.

By publishing this article, the media unnecessarily spreads panic, not checking the validity of the claim, but merely expressing an individual’s opinion, creating harmful sensationalism.

The spread of sensationalism violates Article 8 of the Code of Journalists of Macedonia.

The reporting in cases of accidents, natural disasters, wars, family tragedies, diseases, court proceedings, must be free of sensationalism. In court proceedings the principle of presumption of innocence shall be respected, all parties to the dispute should be informed and no judgment should be suggested.

In addition, there is a violation of Article 13 as well, since one’s unsupported opinion is the main content of the article.

The journalist should distinguish between facts and opinions, between news and commentary.





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This article was created within the framework of the Project to increase the accountability of the politicians and political parties Truthmeter implemented by Metamorphosis. The article is made possible by the generous support of the US non-profit foundation National Endowment for Democracy (NED). The content is the responsibility of its author and does not necessarily reflect the views of Metamorphosis, the National Endowment for Democracy or their partners.

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