Stupid Media Questions on COVID-19
There is no such thing as a stupid question, yet still, the media has been attacked online for simplistic, repetitive and senseless questions. These questions are asked during the press conferences held by the Government of Trinidad and Tobago to update the public on the status of COVID-19. The Ministers seem to lose their cool when faced with questions or questions that in their opinion do not hold enough weight to be answered.
The media represents the interest of the public that seeks clarification on national matters. The study of viruses is a scientific discipline, and those who specialise in this study are still trying to wrap their minds around this particular Coronavirus. We consume political propaganda and criminal occurrences, but when it comes to the general population grasping scientific concepts, we are faced with a challenge. We cannot expect every section of the population to grasp the concept of COVID-19 and the media plays an important role to ensure that we all understand.
The Adult Literacy Tutors Association is still operational in Trinidad and Tobago. They have over 50 centres across Trinidad and 300 active volunteer tutors each year. They have taught over 14,000 adult students over the last 26 years, teaching them to read, write and spell. Adult Literacy is still an issue in our country. The newspapers are a traditional form of media which many adults use to keep informed about national matters. Some adults cannot decode the language used in a newspaper, even though it is written for a general audience. The television and radio are the only sources of audible content whereby they can understand what is being said.
Adults are not the only ones in Trinidad and Tobago that have difficulties with literacy. Every year approximately 20,000 students sit the Secondary Entrance Assessment to attend a Secondary School of their choice. In 2018, 8058 students scored below 50% in English. This trend has not changed over the last couple of years. There is a significant part of our young students who are not grasping the mechanics of English Language that tests comprehension, spelling, grammar and vocabulary. This can be attributed to different learning or social issues that may exist in the family home. Neither of these is addressed in an impactful way.
The media is playing an important role in addressing the statistics mentioned in the last two paragraphs. We assume that once we understand, everyone else will understand as well. Some of us see education and literacy as a right, where others view it as a privilege. We may never understand how grateful the society may be for those questions that seem unintelligent and unbefitting of a seasoned journalist. They understand that a technical-scientific subject matter needs further clarification, emphasis and repetition for the public to understand, especially as parts of the population struggle with literacy.
Are the efforts of the media working? There are still members of society that are disobeying the stay at home order as imposed by the Government. There are still media houses that use vague headlines to ensure that their newspaper is bought, their website is visited and their radio stations gain the most listenership. In cases such as these, many may fall victim to misunderstanding accurate information, compounded by the fact that literacy issues still exist in our country.
We have taken a very simplistic and meaningful approach to educate everyone on COVID-19. Our team at Connective Pros are developing weekly PSA’s to post on both our Facebook page as well as on the pages of our clients. We are using strong images that reflect the messages that are being heard on television and radio. While we respect the descriptive scientific information being provided to us on an hourly basis, it is important that as communication professionals, we must consume and summarise the information for EVERYONE to understand. Take a look at some our communication samples below.
When next you hear that odd question coming from the media, we should not be too quick to judge. They are not asking for themselves, nor are they asking for their media house. They are asking for the person who cannot even begin to read this article. Non-readers have a fear of asking someone else to explain for fear of victimisation. We must put aside our judgement and allow everyone the opportunity to understand the impacts of COVID-19. Our survival depends on it.
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