These days it seems that all of our daily media outlets are inundating us with negative news. Although this amount of negative news can seem overwhelming, it is important for community residents to stay informed. Timely, relevant, and reliable news is especially important during the pandemic, and although it may feel strange delivering consistently bleak information, it is extremely important to be proactive about informing your residents.
When reporting any type of news, one of the most important factors is remaining truthful. According to Pew Research Center, a majority of U.S. adults (59%) reject the idea that news reports should include interpretation, saying that news media should present the facts alone. During the pandemic, it is especially important to only state the facts. The World Health Organization (WHO) has created a page solely to dismiss any false pretenses about the virus. With so much information circulating, it is important to deliver and differentiate fact from fiction.
Incorporating opinions into negative news can also make it even more difficult to process for readers. When opinions are added, trust in government can diminish. Trust in government is also related to media satisfaction at the individual level (Pew Research). Local government has been proven to be more trustworthy than federal, and local knowledge is the feedstock of good governance. According to a Pew research study, the majority of those interviewed say their local media do well at being transparent (62%), dealing fairly with all sides (62%), and including “people like themselves” in their stories (58%). This trust in local media leads to more trust in local government.
When news is not delivered in a timely or factual manner, individuals tend to turn to social media for answers, which can be problematic. Social media has the potential to deliver skewed information. Community groups formed within social media can become a breeding ground for gossip, false news, and opinions. The number of individuals who get their news from social media is staggering. More than half of U.S. adults get news from social media often or sometimes (55%), up from 47% in 2018. About three-in-ten Americans now get news on social media often (28%), up from 20% in 2018. When polled on their trust in social media news however, 55% of individuals believe that the role social media companies play in delivering the news on their sites results in a worse mix of news. Because so many individuals get their news from social media, timely, relevant, and honest news postings on official municipal government pages is crucial.
With Coronavirus statistics and research always changing, it may seem difficult to keep up. The good news is that individuals are more trusting of news coverage related to the pandemic compared to other news coverage. According to a recent Pew Research Center Study, the public is much more likely to think that coverage of the outbreak is largely accurate (49%) rather than largely inaccurate (24%). More Americans see the news media’s coverage as working for the benefit of the public (48%) and helping the country (46%) rather than benefiting the media themselves (36%) or hurting the country (34%). With updates regarding the virus constantly changing and evolving, it is important to pull information from credible sources such as the federal government, federal agencies like the CDC, and state government sources. All of these sources provide relevant, accurate information that is updated almost hourly.
Local government is concerned with matters close to home. This includes bringing the truth to residents so that they can make informed decisions about how to make their home towns a safer place. By delivering news to residents in a timely, truthful, and trustworthy manner, local governments can help get their communities through these difficult times.