And Boston Marathon director Dave McGillivray chose to inspire, telling the Wall Street Journal how he took the logistical expertise he would have deployed for this year’s canceled race and reapplied it to the organization of vaccinations in Massachusetts instead.
Despite all of this high-level persuasion, a large portion of Americans – about 3 in 10 – remain hesitant, according to a new survey from Pew Research.
And like Parton, Fauci and McGillivray, the news media have a role to play – not in outright advocacy, but in relentlessly providing accurate and nuanced information and responding directly to questions.
“There’s a lot to be said for honestly providing as much context as possible and knowing the terrain in which your sound clips and titles will play,” said Emily Bell, director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University.
While Bell was eager to see more people overcome their concerns and get vaccinated, she told me that she didn’t believe in downplaying the numbers on negative reactions to gunfire: “Everything you do, it’s reinforcing the ‘wellness bloggers’ narrative. that Big Pharma is hiding something. “
And which journalists should not focusing, according to a disinformation expert I spoke to, is spending too much energy debunking myths.
Some of the most popular myths: Tech mogul Bill Gates secretly implants microchips in people’s arms. That the vaccine causes the disease. That there are toxic levels of mercury in the doses. Influenza vaccines protect against covid-19, so the new vaccine is unnecessary.
But even if these notions are incorrect and damaging, “the media should not play Whack-a-Mole by debunking all obscure rumors,” said Claire Wardle, founder of First Draft, a nonprofit fighting against disinformation online.
“The more you say that an outrageous thing is not true – ‘No, Bill Gates is do not microchipping you! ‘- the more you give people the keywords’ that will send them down the social media den of disinformation, she told me. “You give him oxygen.”
Instead, like Bell, she believes it’s about tirelessly educating the public by answering reasonable questions with as much expertise as possible.
Local journalists – who tend to enjoy relatively good trust – are particularly important in this effort, provide basic informationand directing readers or viewers to credible sources of public health. Unfortunately, there are far fewer of these reporters than at the start of the pandemic.
At their best, local news agencies also provide significant surveillance coverage, as the Boston Globe did on Friday in an investigative report into the administration of Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) disastrously pivoted to privatize the distribution of vaccines, private entities having awarded contracts without tendering. to undertake perhaps one of the most urgent and ambitious initiatives of the state in modern times. “
The role of the media to date is far from perfect. At first, the overemphasis on allergic reactions – without enough context – set a bad standard.
And some experts believe the media coverage has been too pessimistic overall.
“The public have been offered many misguided concerns about new virus variants, subjected to misleading debates about the inferiority of certain vaccines, and presented with long lists of things vaccinated people still cannot do, while the media are wondering if the pandemic will ever end. “Wrote sociologist Zeynep Tufekci in the Atlantic.
Still, there is evidence that some people change their mind. The number of those who do not plan to get the vaccine has grown from around 40% a few months ago to around 30% now, according to new figures from Pew.
Immunization coverage can still be improved.
“What the public needs to hear,” Tufekci wrote, “. . . is that based on existing data, we expect them to work fairly well – but we’ll know more about their effectiveness over time, and that tweaks can make them even better. “
Ahead of last year’s election, the reality-based media – to its eternal credit – figured out that election night likely wouldn’t provide the answer to who won the presidency, that it might take weeks. to count the votes.
The media succeeded by repeating this message for many weeks, basing their accounts on credible experts and warning against disinformation campaigns. When the pandemic-hampered vote count did take several days, most news consumers were willing to accept this as acceptable, and far less inclined to accept the lie that the election was stolen.
Call it a win, quite rare these days, for good information over bad.
Immunization coverage – with its implications for life and death – is even greater. We have to do it right.
READ MORE by Margaret Sullivan: