If it bleeds, it leads: Media omits US fatality rates in reports

The mainstream media’s headlines border on sensational and incomplete, thus drumming up fears of massive amounts of deaths without pointing out how the fatality rate is not as high as the media portrays it. Both CNN and NBC News are to blame for the incomplete headlines that focus on death counts, but not the percentage of people who have since recovered from the virus.

CNN’s live blog headlined the news, “Coronavirus deaths in the US top 3,000,” but nowhere in the live blog’s video or text was there a mention of the actual fatality rate. Using CNN’s numbers, the fatality rate of known coronavirus cases was 1.8%. For example, a different headline could read, “98.2% of COVID-19 cases recover from the virus” and it is less sensational while maintaining accuracy.

NBC News’s summary of the data headlined the number of fatalities, “Coronavirus map: The COVID-19 virus is spreading across the world. Here’s where cases have been confirmed.” It noted that over 190 countries and territories confirmed coronavirus cases, but there was no specific mention of the fatality rate in specific countries nor globally. Instead, NBC News reported that out of the 700,000-plus confirmed cases, “more than 33,000 have died” since January 2020 and “more than 75,000 people have recovered.” The outlet could have noted that the global fatality rate is 4.7%, based on its data, but that individual countries like the United States have a lower fatality rate.

The overall effect on the mainstream media’s fear-mongering headlines is that the death toll and death count are widely reported, but it is not completely accurate. Though many people have died, more people have recovered from the coronavirus than what is reflected in the media’s headlines. The media should acknowledge that although the virus is deadly, it is not as deadly as past viruses like MERS, which had a more than 30% fatality rate.

The media subjected readers and viewers in the United States to incomplete headlines that do not accurately reflect the data and statistics available to the media and the public.


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Author: Spencer Irvine

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