The Media Effect: Media sensationalism and how it affects the perception of seniors housing.
Updated: Apr 24, 2020
As the evening draws near, news anchors start to saddle their horses for the nightly parade to begin. Different stations, different players, different networks but the same format: four squares occupying opposite corners of your screen, housing pundits who are supposed to offer unique perspectives on the subject at hand, while ironically all adhering to the same homogeneous set of rules. Throw in an anchor who holds the whistle to control their interactions and let the circus begin.
This is the scene in virtually everybody’s living rooms every night as we all hunker down and bunk with our loved ones as we eagerly await the end of this COVID-19 pandemic, huddled in front of the television as we look to our media figureheads for some solace in the the midst of the constant news of new cases and new fatalities.
This pandemic has been a harrowing experience for humanity and although it has had a devastating impact on us all, it has (hopefully) taught us all to be more empathetic, loving, and appreciative of our family, friends, and neighbors.
Although this pandemic is not something to scoff at and it IS serious, there is no denying the media’s penchant for sensationalism. Media sensationalism is defined as a style of reporting news to the public which involves use of anger, excitement, fear and thrill to increase viewership, ratings and most importantly - profits from advertisers. This doesn’t mean that they fabricate the figures. They are very real and they are very troublesome, but it seems as though the media’s hyper-focus on stories of death, destruction, despair and devastation harbor an environment of fear and division in a time where we should be coming together more than ever.
Far from featuring a more balanced approach to the situation, we hardly see stories covering our heroic seniors housing healthcare workers ,the residents who are recovering and the fact that our curve is starting to decrease and downslope. Instead, you have real life cases of deception like CBS knowingly taking alarming footage of a desperately chaotic and overflowing Italian hospital
(which was named one of Europe’s ‘most hard-hit’ hospitals as identified by Sky News earlier that same day) during Italy's worst peak and using it and claiming it was a New York hospital in an effort to create panic. They apologized and said it was an error. Less than a week later however, CBS News used the same Italian footage again while referencing coronavirus cases in Pennsylvania. This is one of dozens of instances. This is not okay.
While this sensationalism has been especially tough on the seniors housing industry, the media industry has been receiving more viewers, more clicks, and more concentrated advertising revenue than ever before. It seems as though every night there’s a new story of a retirement residence or long term care facility losing a large population of their residents. Although the specific stories that they cover are true and they are serious, one thing needs to made abundantly clear: This is not representative of the entire industry at large. Although a large portion of the COVID-19 cases are individuals who are elderly, experts have stated that this is mostly due to the fact that this particular population has a more delicate immune system and the chances are greater that they already have underlying health conditions when compared to a younger population. This has no bearing on the integrity of retirement and long term care facilities as a superior option for the elderly that provides unparalleled care and support. The nightly horror stories and the highly selective and cherry-picked reporting does not mean that, en masse, these residences are bad places. Correlation does not prove causation in the slightest. On the contrary, operators, medical and support staff are working tirelessly to prevent, contain, treat and eradicate the illness from their facilities by employing stringent security and quarantine measures. They care for their residents like we all care for our families. Who’s telling that story? I'm a new Text block ready for your content.
The media’s portrayal and one sided reporting of the seniors housing industry is irresponsible and damaging, not only to the retirement industry itself, but ultimately it is the elderly who will suffer in the end. There is already a growing stigma these days surrounding seniors housing, and unfairly so. The media does not care if they inadvertently cause retirement residences to permanently go out of business or are unable to keep their occupancy at a sustainable number due to public fear. The media is only telling their story, who’s telling yours? Your retirement home needs an advocate.
LET'S TALK ABOUT A SOLUTION.