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Astral Codex Ten Podcast

Apr 16, 2020



Vox asks What Went Wrong With The Media’s Coronavirus Coverage? They conclude that the media needs to be better at “not just saying what we do know, but what we don’t know”. This raises some important questions. Like: how much ink and paper is there in the world? Are we sure it’s enough? But also: how do you become better at saying what you don’t know?

In case you’ve been hiding under a rock recently (honestly, valid) the media not only failed to adequately warn its readers about the epidemic, but actively mocked and condescended to anyone who did sound a warning. Real Clear Politics has a list of highlights. The Vox tweet saying “Is this going to be a deadly pandemic? No.” Washington Post telling us in February “Why we should be wary of an aggressive government reponse to coronavirus (it might “scapegoat marginalized populations”). The Daily Beast complaining that “coronavirus, with zero American fatalities, is dominating headlines, while the flu is the real threat”. The New York Timesweighing in with articles like “The pandemic panic” and “Who says it’s not safe to travel to China”. The constant attempts to attribute “alarmism” over the virus to anti-Chinese racism. Etcetcetc.

One way people have summed this up is that the media (and the experts they relied on) did a terrible job predicting what would happen. I think this lets them off too easy.