FRONTLINE: The sociology of a pandemic: Countering a COVID 'disinfodemic' with a campus media initiative

Keywords: case studies, coronavirus, COVID-19, disinformation, Frontline, health journalism, journalism as research, journalism education, New Zealand, pandemic, truth-telling

Abstract

Parallel with the global spread of the novel coronavirus pandemic, a dangerous ‘disinfodemic’ has been infecting the flow of information worldwide. Communication and media outlets have faced a new challenge with not only being responsible for reportage and analysis of a fast-moving public health emergency—the biggest this century, but forced to sift through the mass circulation of falsehoods that have spread as rapidly as the virus. Concerned about the risks for both health and public responses to disinformation, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres identified the ‘new enemy’ as a ‘growing surge of disinformation’. The UN launched a COVID-19 Communications for Solidarity Initiative to rapidly inform people about facts and science and to ‘promote and inspire acts of humanity’ globally. New Zealand is one of the few countries in the world whose strategy of COVID elimination has been a sustained approach to ‘keep the virus out, find it and stamp it out’. Evoking a theme of ‘our team of five million’ and national kindness, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has led a remarkable campaign blending decisive action and transparency. In this context, this article critically examines a four-month ‘Coronavirus Plus’ initiative conducted by the Pacific Media Centre at a communication programme in one of the New Zealand’s universities in response to the pandemic, deploying the Asia Pacific Report website, asiapacificreport.nz. 

Downloads

Download data is not yet available.

Metrics

Metrics Loading ...

Author Biographies

David Robie, Pacific Media Centre - AUT

Editor of Pacific Journalism Review and Professor of Communication Studies and Journalism

School of Communication Studies

Auckland University of Technology

Sri Krishnamurthi, Pacific Media Centre, Auckland University of Technology

Contributing editor of the Pacific Media Centre's Pacific Media Watch Project.

References

About us (n.d.). Pacific Centre for Environment and Sustainable Development (PaCE-SD). Retrieved September 3, 2020, from https://pace.usp.ac.fj/

Bacon, W. (2011). Investigative journalism in the academy—possibilities for storytelling across time and space. Pacific Journalism Review : Te Koakoa, 17(1), 45-66. https://doi.org/10.24135/pjr.v17i1.371

Bacon, W. (2012). FRONTLINE: An innovative direction in academic journalism. Pacific Journalism Review : Te Koakoa, 18(2), 153-165. https://doi.org/10.24135/pjr.v18i2.270

Banbury, J. (2020, August 20). Why is National struggling to convince voters? Democracy Project. Victoria University of Wellington. Retrieved August 21, 2020, from

Bradbury, M. (2020, October 22). The 2 simple reasons why Labour won an unprecedented MMP majority. The Daily Blog. Retrieved October 25, 2020, from https://thedailyblog.co.nz/2020/10/22/the-2-simple-reasons-why-labour-won-an-unprecedented-mmp-majority/

Collectif Argos. (2010). Climate refugees. Introductions by Hubert Reeves and Jean Jouzel. Boston: Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Cooper, A. (2020, April 13). How COVID-19 is threatening press freedom: An interview with Joel Simon. Journalist’s Resource. Retrieved August 9, 2020, from https://journalistsresource.org/studies/society/news-media/coronavirus-covid-19-press-freedom-joel-simon/

Coronavirus: Outcry after Trump suggests injecting disinfectant as treatment (2020, April 24). BBC News. Retrieved August 18, 2020, from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-52407177

Cousins, S. (2020, May 9). New Zealand eliminates COVID-19. The Lancet, 395(10235), 1474. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(20)31097-7

COVID-19: Elimination strategy for Aotearoa New Zealand (2020, May 8). Ministry of Health Manatu Hauora. Retrieved August 18, 2020, from https://www.health.govt.nz/our-work/diseases-and-conditions/covid-19-novel-coronavirus/covid-19-current-situation/covid-19-elimination-strategy-aotearoa-new-zealand

Craddock, P. (2013). Pacific journalists and frontline freedom. [Review]. Pacific Journalism Review : Te Koakoa, 19(1), 299-302. https://doi.org/10.24135/pjr.v19i1.254

During this coronavirus pandemic, ‘fake news’ is putting lives at risk: UNESCO (2020, April 13). UN News. Retrieved on August 18, 2020, from https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/04/1061592

Election 2020: Key social media trends (2020, n.d.). Dr Mona Krewel & Professor Jack Vowles: negative campaigning, fake news, and half-truths among the minor parties: And the question: Is Advance New Zealand really ‘populist’. Retrieved October 25, 2020, from https://www.wgtn.ac.nz/research/strengths/election

Forrester, G. (2020, May 5). Coronavirus: Jacinda Ardern praised for ‘master class’ response to covid-19 crisis. Stuff. Retrieved August 18, 2020, from https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/coronavirus/121405409/coronavirus-jacinda-ardern-praised-for-master-class-response-to-covid19-crisis

Holland, E. (2020). Tropical Cyclone Harold meets the Novel Coronavirus: Dispatch from the Pacific. Pacific Journalism Review : Te Koakoa, 26(1), 243-251. https://doi.org/10.24135/pjr.v26i1.1099

Hopgood, S. J. (2020, August 23). Pacific community come out in force during NZ’s covid-19 testing. RNZ Pacific/Asia Pacific Report. Retrieved August 23, 2020, from https://asiapacificreport.nz/2020/08/23/pacific-community-come-out-in-force-during-nzs-covid-19-testing/

Hutt, K. (2017, May 18). Pacific-wide study aims to understand how journalists cover climate change. Pacific Media Watch Fiji #9982. Retrieved September 3, 2020, from https://pmc.aut.ac.nz/pacific-media-watch/fiji-pacific-wide-study-aims-understand-how-journalists-cover-climate-change

Internews’ Strategic Approach to COVID-19: Information Saves Lives (2020, April). Internews. Retrieved August 22, 2020, from https://internews.org

Johnson, G. (2020a, July 8). How New Zealand’s media endangered public health. Al Jazeera English. Retrieved August 18, 2020, from https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/zealand-media-endangered-public-health-200707103532946.html

Johnson, G. (2020b, August 21). Coronavirus and conspiratorial dog-whistles return to New Zealand. Al Jazeera English. Retrieved August 22, 2020, from https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/coronavirus-conspiratorial-dog-whistles-return-zealand-200820113656292.html

Krishnamurthi, S. (2019, July 10). Pacific Media Watch – The genesis. [Video]. Pacific Media Centre. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xvd-iwd7LZA

Krishnamurthi, S. (2020a, April 3). Media suffer ‘devastating’ blows on both sides of the Tasman. Asia Pacific Report. Retrieved August 18, 2020, from https://asiapacificreport.nz/2020/04/03/trans-tasman-media-suffers-a-blow-on-both-sides-on-the-tasman/

Krishnamurthi, S. (2020b, April 20). ‘Stop, listen, Papatūānuku, the earth mother, is breathing’. Asia Pacific Report. Retrieved September 3, 2020, from https://asiapacificreport.nz/2020/04/20/stop-listen-papatuanuku-the-earth-mother-is-breathing/

Krishnamurthi, S. (2020c, September 21). How COVID priorities have shelved ‘PNG’ climate change action. Asia Pacific Report. Retrieved September 20, 2020, from https://asiapacificreport.nz/2020/09/21/how-covid-priorities-have-shelved-png-climate-change-action/

Krishnamurthi, S. (2020d, October 22). How Pacific environmental defenders are coping with the Covid-19 pandemic. Earth Journalism Net. Retrieved on October 25, 2020, from

https://earthjournalism.net/stories/how-pacific-environmental-defenders-are-coping-with-the-covid-19-pandemic

Loo, E. (2013). Training journalists in context. In Bridging the cultural gaps in journalism training and education in Asia (pp. 91-109). Media Programme Asia. Singapore: Konrad Adenauer Stiftung.

Mason, B. (2014). Journalism practice and critical reflexivity: A death in custody interview. Pacific Journalism Review : Te Koakoa, 20(1), 158-179. https://doi.org/10.24135/pjr.v20i1.192

Mike Hosking: Government has overcooked the lockdown (2020, April 21). The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved September 3, 2020, from https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12326281

Molyneux, V. (2020, October 15). Facebook removes Advance NZ page for ‘repeated’ misinformation about COVID-19. Newshub. Retrieved October 25, 2020, from

https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/politics/2020/10/facebook-removes-advance-nz-page-for-repeated-misinformation-about-covid-19.html

Nash, C. (2014). Research degrees in journalism: What is an exegesis?. Pacific Journalism Review : Te Koakoa, 20(1), 76-98. https://doi.org/10.24135/pjr.v20i1.188

Nash, C. (2016). What is journalism: The art and politics of a rupture. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Nolan, J. (2020, June 18). Will Timor-Leste be the region’s latest press freedom casualty? The Interpreter. Retrieved August 18, 2020, from https://www.lowyinstitute.org/the-interpreter/will-timor-leste-be-region-s-latest-press-freedom-casualty

Peacock, C. (2020, October 25). Should we fear fake news in our politics? RNZ Mediawatch. Retrieved October 25, 2020, from https://www.rnz.co.nz/national/programmes/mediawatch/audio/2018769801/should-we-fear-fake-news-in-our-politics

Posetti, J., & Bontcheva, K. (2020). Disinfodemic: Dissecting responses to covid-19 disinformation: Policy brief 2. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation. Retrieved August 18, 2020, from https://en.unesco.org/sites/default/files/disinfodemic_dissecting_responses_covid19_disinformation.pdf

Robie, D. (2013). The ‘talanoa’ and the tribal paradigm: Reflections on cross-cultural reporting in the Pacific. Australian Journalism Review, 35(1), 43-58.

Robie, D. (2014a). Pacific Media Watch: Beyond parochial news, Media Asia, 41(3), 220-226. https://doi.org/10.1080/01296612.2014.11690019

Robie, D. (2014b). Don’t spoil my beautiful face: media, mayhem and human rights in the Pacific. Auckland: Little Island Press.

Robie, D. (2018). Bearing Witness 2017: Year 2 of a Pacific climate change storytelling project. Pacific Journalism Review : Te Koakoa, 24(1), 155-177. https://doi.org/10.24135/pjr.v24i1.415

Robie, D. (2019). Karoronga, kele’a, talanoa, tapoetethakot and va: expanding millennial notions of a ‘Pacific way’ journalism education and media research culture, Media Asia, 46(1-2), 1-17, https://doi.org/10.1080/01296612.2019.1601409

Robie, D. (2020a, April 4). Creeping authoritarianism in Pacific not the answer to virus pandemic. Pacific Pandemic Diary. Asia Pacific Report. Retrieved August 18, 2020, from https://asiapacificreport.nz/2020/04/04/creeping-authoritarianism-in-pacific-not-the-answer-to-virus-pandemic/

Robie, D. (2020b). ‘Stay home, stay safe, be kind’: How New Zealand crushed, not just flattened the COVID curve. In K. Seneviratne & S. Muppidi (Eds.), Racism and politicisation: Media in the midst of a pandemic. Springer (Forthcoming).

Robie, D. & Chand, S. (2017). Bearing Witness 2016: A Fiji climate change journalism case study. Pacific Journalism Review : Te Koakoa, 23(1), 186-205. https://doi.org/10.24135/pjr.v23i1.257

Robie, D., & Marbrook, J. (2020). Bearing Witness: A Pacific climate crisis documentary and journalism development project. Asia Pacific Media Educator. 30(1), 77-91. https://doi.org/10.1177/1326365X20945417

RSF (Reporters Without Borders) (2020a). 2020 World press freedom index: ‘Entering a decisive decade for journalism, exacerbated by coronavirus’. Retrieved August 18, 2020, from https://rsf.org/en/2020-world-press-freedom-index-entering-decisive-decade-journalism-exacerbated-coronavirus

RSF (Reporters Without Borders) (2020b, June 15). Coronavirus ‘information heroes’ – journalism that saves lives. Retrieved August 18, 2020, from https://rsf.org/en/news/coronavirus-information-heroes-journalism-saves-lives

Singh, S. (2017, November 7). A core challenge with reporting climate change is sustaining public interest. Stuff. Retrieved September 3, 2020, from https://www.stuff.co.nz/tarana/98608482/a-core-challenge-with-reporting-climate-change-is-sustaining-public-interest

Stone, A. (2011, August 31). Farewell NZPA, hello three new services. The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved August 9, 2020, from https://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=10748448

UN launches new initiative to fight COVID-19 misinformation (2020, May 21). UN News. Retrieved August 12, 2020, from https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/05/1064622

UN tackles ‘infodemic’of misinformation and cybercrime in COVID-19 crisis (2020, March 31). United Nations Department of Global Information. Retrieved August 18, 2020, from https://www.un.org/en/un-coronavirus-communications-team/un-tackling-%E2%80%98infodemic%E2%80%99-misinformation-and-cybercrime-covid-19

UNESCO battles COVID-19 ‘disinfodemic’ (2020, April 13). Arête News. Retrieved August 18, 2020, from https://aretenews.com/unesco-battles-covid-19-disinfodemic/

Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948). Article 19: Freedom of expression. United Nations Charter.

VII Pacific (2020). Photojournalism and documentary photograohy: A VII Academy 12-week seminar with Ben Bohane for Pacific region participants, 3 July 2020-18 September 2020. Retrieved September 2, 2020, from https://vii.academy/events/photojournalism-and-documentary-photography-a-vii-academy-12-week-seminar-with-ben-bohane-for-the-pacific-region-participants/

WHO Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Situation Report 13 (2020, February 2). World Health Organisation (WHO). Retrieved August 18, 2020, from https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/situation-reports/20200202-sitrep-13-ncov-v3.pdf?sfvrsn=195f4010_6

Frontline facemasks icon
Published
30-11-2020
How to Cite
Robie, D., & Krishnamurthi, S. (2020). FRONTLINE: The sociology of a pandemic: Countering a COVID ’disinfodemic’ with a campus media initiative. Pacific Journalism Review : Te Koakoa, 26(2), 179-200. https://doi.org/10.24135/pjr.v26i2.1131