translated from Spanish: What do we look at and what do we stop looking at? Media x-ray on the pandemic

You wake up and look at the cell phone. Stories of your friends’ confinement on Instagram, discussions on Twitter and the number of cases recorded in the last few hours. You turn on the TV, the radio, which summarizes the main headlines of the day: «New cases in Argentina» or «Alberto Fernández extended the quarantine». The pandemic took over the media agenda. Although we started the year with the term «coronavirus» in international, little by little the context became a challenge for all sections, with coverage that grew on par with the circumstances. This informational overabundance allows, on the one hand, to observe the trends of format and content in the way they communicated that came to stay, as well as to deepen the dangers of fake news, to highlight the claim of scientific journalism and also the social, economic and technological inequalities pre-existing in access to news. To deepen the topic, Filo.News spoke with Fabricio Ballarini, RESEARCHER at CONICET and Doctor of Biology of the UBA, Mariela Baladrón, communication teacher of the UBA, Irina Sternik, journalist specialized in digital culture and Gabriela Yalangozian, web coordinator and cooperative president of the self-managed medium La Nueva Mañana, who made a reading on the dynamic present of the media. Who saw you and who sees you: What do we see in quarantine?

Photo: Filo News

As revealed by Consulting Projection, in a report on AMBA, in May 61.4% of the interviewees chose to dedicate the use of media to entertainment. However, in a context characterized by uncertainty and the need for information, news about COVID-19 ranks second on the list, as 23.0 decides to consume content on the pandemic. «There is much more need in a context of so much uncertainty that this official information can arrive, this statistical data, how the virus is advancing in the country, what are the prevention measures, care, recommendations; certainly the information took on a much more relevant role in this context,» says Baladrón. The vast majority choose information on health measures, development or prevention of the pandemic, at 64.7%; then follow the Government’s economic measures and social isolation, at 62.0%; the formalities, movement permits and use of public space are in third place with 44.7%; content on the disease that contributes to entertainment and bloating by 33.4%; life stories by 8.4% and finally 1.5% famous people linked to the disease. 

Photo: Filo News

As far as social media is concerned, According to Comscore in March, in Argentina there was an increase in social media mentions of the term ‘coronavirus’ by 6.610%, and by 18% compared to other Latin American countries. The most widely used hashtags were #Coronavirus and #QuedateEnCasa, thus with the campaign to raise awareness of the importance of complying with quarantine. In addition, the time when the media received more than 100 million visits was March 19, the day the president of the nation, Alberto Fernández, decreed compulsory quarantine. Scientific communication began to position itself in the media. Ballarini, who repairs the need to have specialists in front of the screen, emphasized this: «You can tell a lot when you have a person who communicates science from those who don’t,» he says, «It seems to me that if the pandemic ended up doing a little wrong with scientific communication because it seems that anyone can talk about any subject, and everyone should have a say on the contents they know,» he says.  Among the main challenges that a scientific communicator has, Ballarini highlights the need for consensus in scientific works, so it is important to take preprint works in quotation marks, which are those that do not have peer review. Going from bed to compu: How do we see it? 

Photo: Filo News

As indicated by Kantar’s Insights Division in the «COVID-19 Barometer», the most reliable means of obtaining information about the pandemic in Argentina are national TV media and newspapers (78%), websites of government agencies (58%) websites of international organizations (58%). In this way, the use of traditional means grew. In its March report Kantar Ibope Media had recorded a 31% increase in television consumption in Argentina, from 2,580,796 viewers to 3,001,631 viewers, an increase of 420,835 people in front of the screen in tocountry. According to the report, the largest increase in audiences occurred between 2 and 4 a.m., where it reached 64%; there was also a growth in millennial audiences by 26%, and older adults by 34%. The radio also retained its listeners: in May 50% listened to the same amount as before, 13% discovered new programs or stations, 66% on common radio followed by 25% from the internet in notebook. In terms of digital, 44% declare to watch more TV streaming services, 68% are watching more videos online, 24% listen to more online radio. On social media, the platform said it increased the use of WhatsApp by 69%, 52% of Facebook and 51% Instagram. Twitter doesn’t stay outside: it increased the volume of news-related conversations by 15%. 

Photo: Filo News

Is the technology system prepared for this growth in the use of devices? «I don’t think we’re prepared for quarantine technologically (…) With the dollar so high and the economic crisis of the last long years, it is impossible for many to have bought devices. Although the internet did not collapse, it is wrong, not only here, throughout Latin America, the networks are not prepared for so many simultaneous consumptions and even though the telephones did their magic, they were not prepared either,» says the professional in digital culture. Then, she stresses: «The worst part is taken by the interior, distant municipalities, anything other than urban centers.» For that reason, it emphasizes the importance of responsible use that involves «not being selfish with the consumption of the internet, not being all day in a video call, trying to phone instead of WhatsApp, measuring themselves, doing things without consuming ultra HD».  The role of the media: what place is given to scientific and technological communication?

Journal & COVID-19 Photo: Pixabay

As we can see, the media has an essential role in the coronavirus pandemic, as well as greater responsibility and challenges in communicating. «Today more than ever the media has the function of creating the communication bonds that allow hard information to be brought closer to people. Reality and doing it respa financially, without generating panic or anguish, and appealing to solidarity, thinking about their community and social commitment,» yalangozian says. The role of the media there is extremely important because it allows to measure the social sensation and reflect it, and at the same time show the historical moment that humanity lives, to get through it as best as possible». For Sternik, it was clear that journalists can communicate science and technology correctly was underlined: «On the science side, it is clear that the figure of the scientific journalist is indispensable for not disseminating information that harms the citizen, as is constantly the case with irresponsible titles and fake news. But also, to explain papers, discoveries, processes. On the technology side, because it is the only way we have to communicate at the moment and it became clear the ignorance of the platforms and, also, the danger that can generate to use them badly, without updating, without key, etc,» explains the journalist. For his part, Ballarini warns that there is «a somewhat misguided role of the media, because it does not cure very well what is the relevant information and which is not»: «A lot of clickbait is being made of information that is misinterpreted or false. The media has to take a role in re-educating certain behaviors and they do not, it seems to me that instead of reporting mostly they are based on making opinions or columns of opinion and not informing,» he says. Don’t believe WhatsApp audios: What about fake news in the pandemic?

Fake news ? Photo: United Nations / Pixabay

This responsibility is challenged in the face of infodemia, which is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as «an excessive amount of information in some cases correct, in others not 2012 that makes it difficult for people to find reliable sources and reliable guidance when they need them. It refers to a large increase in the volume of information related to a particular topic, which may become exponential in a short period due to a particular incident such as the current pandemic.» At this point, Sternik points out that there is a difference between ‘fake’ and ‘false’ news: the former usually has behind a political operation with the intention of generating damage, while the second may simply be recklessness, prejudice or beliefs that fill gaps based on incomplete information. In this way, Baladrón highlights the cases of specialists who were questioned by journalists, a lot of misinformation, in relation to the virus, the measurements, information that is not checked, audios by WhatsApp and more: «This pre-pandemic but is certainly dangerous at the time that it includes health and behaviors in a context so critical to a country’s life and health system,» he says. Following Projection, 47.3% say they rely primarily on cable news channels to learn about the disease; 41.6% open TV newscasts, 28.3% Google search engines, 24.2% in digital newspapers, 23.3% on social media, 16.4% on radio, 2.9% on Whatsapp, 2.3% official channels 1.0% on others.» The criterion is to check the basics: whoever posts it is a reliable site or is it a tweeter who usually generates controversy? Is it a Whatsapp chain? See if this news is published elsewhere, google,» Sternik says, following: «I believe that the singular situation of the pandemic, the fear of the unknown and the inability to move from our homes generated a boom of conspiracy theories or spread of fake news. Lack of digital education, it is irresponsible to read something that you think is true and spread it.»
Thus, in the report 25.2% of respondents believe that the media report responsibly and 19.3% confess to having more interest in the subject; however, 44.5% say they do their homework alarmistly, so 33.2% say their interest in the news declined. «I try not to watch TV or social media, but I get notes and tweets from people who say anything all the time. It’s pretty unmotivating that there’s that. In the main media in the country, they didn’t notice a lot of sensational coverage, they all fell into making notes with information about it,» Says Ballarini. Sternik, for his part, agrees that there is sensational coverage that «is regrettable»: «The content became mostly related to this subject and an infodemia was generated. And that, it’s another very harmful virus that spreads through social networks and Whatsapp.» In search of combating misinformation, Ballarini joined nearly 20 specialists to create the «Corona Inquiries» account, which through Twitter, Instagram and its website seeks to answer «simple and everyday» questions about the disease, whether about cleanliness and disinfection, quarantine, pets, myths and truths and more. The truth is that it has already become a success: «The project is very nice. It was born because I received a lot of questions from family friends, people on social media who asked me quite simple things, what a virus is, how it activates, what to do, everyday issues. Each of the specialists takes the area and responds to it. It keeps us reading, arguing from different perspectives,» he says. The behind-the-scenes media: how did they adapt to the pandemic?

Media & Quarantine ? Photo: Twitter @soysolmengoni

In order to communicate the news, the different media had to modify its structure and organization to take all the necessary health measures, so telework became more important, as well as video calls and home office. Baladrón highlights the fact that many television programs decided to install video calls on the air, either with guests or with part of the staff; among them is «Controversial in the bar», «Saturday Passion» or «We in the Morning». On the one hand, Sternik emphasizes that the importance of a Telework Law and that the company can provide the technological equipment to work. Baladrón names the debate for the right to disconnection, and points to Senator Daniel Lovera’s bill to ensure compliance. «It’s something that was already ahead of the pandemic, if you can see that it deepened much more, then like that there is no longer a schedule for messages, emails, video calls, there is like a permanent consumption of screens.» However, the situation is different for traditional means of self-purposes. Yalangozian is part of La Nueva Mañana, the cooperative that was born in 2016; after 60 families were left on the street, some of them came together to advance the initiative that grows week after week, although it’s not easy work.
«In the case of self-reproductive, recovered and community media, the effort that is being made is very great. On the one hand, because at this time, while increasing the number of readers, advertising fell sharply and the collection of advertising fell apart. The circulation of print publications is complicated by circulation restrictions. For which, work increased and incomes dropped dramatically. But there is a commitment to survive, to go through the crisis, to reach out to the readers who trust us to side with the worker, cocooperative work in our case,» he says. He then says that the economic crisis also hit other self-managed means of the interior: «We see important the role that local and community media are having, often without support from provincial and national states, supported only by small traders and SMEs that are now hit by the recession. It is these media that has the social function of reflecting what happens in these societies, giving identity to their own communities and a sense of belonging to their neighbors. These small media gives him visibility and tend more ties than regional or national media, which often invisibiliza them (…) Many media drag a crisis and the pandemic deepened that situation, some pushing them to the near-terminal edge.» A pandemic, different realities: Who can access the news?

Coronavirus ? Photo: Pixabay

The coronavirus pandemic not only exposed the context of inequality in the different media but also in internet access, use and practices involved; Baladrón, who emphasizes that there is now much more demand for education, work, paperwork, which are done online.
Taking into account ENACOM data, in a december 2019 report, internet access varies throughout the territory: 62.92% of 100 households have internet access, and 14 provinces are below the national average. In addition, in CABA and province of Buenos Aires 56.96% have access to more than 20 megas, while in the rest of the country only 25.60%. «We see that the accesses are concentrated in Buenos Aires City, province and some other districts, but it does not represent the whole country,» baladrón says. We have several problems, on the one hand you have to see the infrastructures, if they do not access for that, or access because it is very expensive, you have to see how many devices there are in each family and if the capacities are developed to be able to carry out all those activities overnight online. It is a picture of the situation of inequality there are many families, which is a pre-drag but aggravated in this situation of isolation in the pandemic,» he continues. In this sense, quarantine deepened the claim of access to hundreds of popular neighborhoods, who had a greater participation in the media agenda in recent weeks: «It was only in the last time that the problems of popular neighborhoods and villages began to be put on the agenda when it was a problem that had arisen since the beginning of the pandemic, and now by very tragic situations of the first deaths is that it is only beginning to appear on the media agenda Baladrón.COVID-19 and a historic moment has changed a little bit: What reflections leaves us in the future? 

COVID-19 Photo: Pixabay

Broadly speaking, coronavirus in the media highlighted a pre-existing trend in the world, based on the decline of printed paper and the growth of digital. However, it also surprised the growth of the use of traditional media, which remain the main source of news and trust. «We are at a hinged moment, the process of converting the media is accelerated: to maintain through subscriptions, to give quality journalism, to listen to the audience and to innovate. The challenges are, instead of closing media and firing people, learning to reconvert with their resources, opening the mind in some way, neglecting bureaucracies and testing new ways of counting,» reveals Sternik.De future, the professional aspires to the pandemic allows for greater inclusion of science in the mass media: «Hopefully there is greater interest , that scientific communication is slightly more prioritized. At the rate we’re going to think it’s not going to be that way. Let’s hope there is a deeper interest in the media in bringing real information than completing the pages with headlines.» In turn, it is time to rethink the new normality taking into account the current claims and how to combat the inequality of access to news, the situation behind the scenes and the dangers of fake news. The time is now, and the pandemic has come to challenge us as communicators, viewers, listeners and readers, in order to think of an inclusive post-pandemic journalism that adapts to new realities. 
In this note:

Original source in Spanish

Related Posts

Add Comment