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