So much of what we know – or think we know – today, we learn from media. New media, old media, print media, video media, social media, together these media have created a world immersed in information.
Information, misinformation, disinformation – often it’s hard to tell ‘em apart, and many outlets of many media do their damnedest to make discriminating truth from falsehood all but impossible.
Both for professional fact-gatherers like reporters or researchers and for amateur info-consumers reading newspapers, listening to radio or watching TV or smaller screens – tablets and phones – everything starts with credible sources.
Why do I think something is true? Because I trust my source, and because the content checks out factually and logically.
Those three elements: sources, facts and logic are what credibility is built on, in journalism and in politics and especially in a crisis.
Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany and the leader of one of the best national success stories in combating the coronavirus pandemic puts it this way: “The whole federal republic is built on trust.” And with public trust comes compliance. Germans have faithfully observed masking and social distancing rules during the pandemic, in part, observers say, because of Merkel’s media messaging since the crisis began.
The chancellor has been consistently serious and consistently clear on what must be done and why. She has based her rules on science and logic. For example, as Germany started loosening restraints and reopening businesses, Merkel laid out a strict standard for keeping the re-normalization process going. If daily infections in any region exceed 50 per 100,000 inhabitants for seven days the restrictive rules go back into effect there until new infections fall below 50 a day for seven straight days.
Simple, clear, and “makes sense to me,” and apparently to most Germans who now give Merkel approval ratings well above 80%.
Other leaders wish they had that kind of support, but President Donald Trump of the United States and Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez of Spain, to name two, haven’t been nearly as successful at walking the walk to coronavirus suppression, nor have they been as good as Merkel at talking the media talk about the pandemic.
Damaso Reyes is an independent journalist and media literacy expert based in Barcelona, Spain. Over more than 20 years as a journalist and photographer he has worked throughout the United States and Europe and in countries as varied as Rwanda and Indonesia. His work has been published by the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, the San Francisco Chronicle, Der Spiegel and our very own KSFR.
He is also the founder of Clarify Media, a media literacy organization dedicated to training educators, students and organizations to me more information literate.