Lessons From SARS Coverage

Sun Yu
December 2003
Nieman Reports;Winter2003, Vol. 57 Issue 4, p91
The article focuses on the implications of the press coverage of the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome in for the mass media industry in China. The disease first appeared in the southern Guangdong Province late in 2003. The virus caused China huge economic losses, far costlier than either the Asian financial crisis in 1997 or the flood disaster in 1998. The outbreak also exposed problems in China, such as the transparency problem behind the release of information to the public. Because media play such a critical role in getting information to the public, it is worth reflecting on what happened during the outbreak and what impact the media's actions to have. During the crisis, some of the publications conducted in-depth investigations of the disease and its impact and delivered exclusive reports with unique angels. News reporting in English serves as a window for the outside world to understand China. Since it caters to foreigners, in general, the coverage tends to be more open. Historically, the channels of information in China have been very limited and it was very easy for the government to control the flow of information. Some media experts believe the press played a large part in causing the spread of fear with the disease.


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