Science writer Ed Yong’s coverage of COVID was superb, and his reporting of long COVID even more so. In a thoughtful piece for the NYT, he explains how journalists should and could do better: Reporting on Long Covid Taught Me To Be a Better Journalist.
Covering long Covid solidified my view that science is not the objective, neutral force it is often misconstrued as. It is instead a human endeavor, relentlessly buffeted by our culture, values and politics. As energy-depleting illnesses that disproportionately affect women, long Covid and M.E./C.F.S. are easily belittled by a sexist society that trivializes women’s pain, and a capitalist one that values people according to their productivity. Societal dismissal leads to scientific neglect, and a lack of research becomes fodder for further skepticism.
…How could so many people feel so thoroughly unrepresented by an industry that purports to give voice to the voiceless?
As Yong explains, some of the defining characteristics of journalism can make it a powerful enemy of people who are suffering.
many journalistic norms and biases work against us. Our love of iconoclasts privileges the voices of skeptics, who can profess to be canceled by patient groups, over the voices of patients who are actually suffering. Our fondness for novelty leaves us prone to ignoring chronic conditions that are, by definition, not new.
…We are not neutral actors, reporting on the world at a remove; we also create that world through our choices, and we must do so with purpose, care and compassion.