Is the Media Biased in Covering COVID-19?

In March of 2020, the front page of every newspaper was plastered with news about COVID-19. As time moved on, the news about COVID slowly dwindled to a few articles on the front page—and now, depending on the media outlet you subscribe to, the information you get regarding the pandemic might vary greatly. 

The question must be asked regarding the accuracy of reporting COVID news: is the media biased in reporting?

A Gallup/Knight Foundation poll shows that 73% of Americans believe that media bias is a major problem. This pertains to the COVID coverage by the American media as well. 

According to Bloomberg, republican leadership in states like Arizona and Texas always gets called out by the media as compared with democratic states, such as California. 

Others, however, feel differently about the subject. 

“I think that a lot of the statistics behind whoever thinks there is bias in the media depends on the viewer’s background and where they are from and what media they watch. For example, if you were a Republican that watches Republican-leaning networks like Fox News, you would probably be more concerned about how states like Arizona and Texas are being called out by media networks that tend to lean more Democratic,”explained Siddharth Chittapuram (‘23). 

There is definitely this sort of bias within news organizations. For example, Fox News might cover a story that can be potentially used for Republican benefit, while CNN does not cover it at all. There are many such cases within media coverage. 

“About COVID coverage, I think that the issues pertaining to COVID in each state relate to how the state government executes COVID relief instead of how the media presents COVID statistics in a partisan manner,” said Chittapuram

This is definitely true. In the case of the coronavirus, many new articles help expose and uncover the truth regarding COVID response. In this case, both sides are needed to provide criticism to states across the country. 

Another study found that behavioral responses to COVID are often politicized based on media. Fox news viewers, generally right-leaning, take less preventative measures and more risks compared to CNN viewers, generally left-leaning. 

Some agree that there is correlation between COVID response and media bias. 

“Of course, both left wing and right wing media politicize the virus and I think people from both sides develop strong biases towards the other side, resulting in behaviors that strongly condemn the other side. For example, some left-wing people view masks as a symbol of the democrats so they wear masks in all situations regardless if it’s necessary, like in a video call. In response to that, many right-wing people wear masks as little as possible or not at all to express their disagreement with the other side,” explained Mark Zhou (‘23).

There is definitely truth to this, as an example with masks. Masks have become politicized due to COVID coverage this year. The news coverage of such events often lead to responses from the other side of the aisle, politicizing the pandemic even further. 

“Sometimes people consider less safety and what is ‘best’ for the public because the media’s bias made them behave just to anger the other side,” said Zhou.

News organizations may often subtly spin news stories in order to incite anger towards the other side of the aisle.

Either by politicizing masks or criticizing the other party, media bias definitely exists in our world today and influences the thoughts of the American populus. The next question that American must answer is how to fix the problem of media bias for more reliable news reporting.