O’Dwyer’s recently reported on a Pew survey that indicated Americans are suffering from coronavirus news fatigue. This reminded me of 2001 in the wake of the horrific 9-11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Towers.
After weeks of news video and photography showing the towers coming down, over and over, heartbreaking interviews with victims’ families, and reports from Ground Zero of officials worried about another terrorist attack, the same kind of fatigue set in not only for the audience, but news operations themselves. How much more could viewers, readers and listeners take?
America seems to be at a similar saturation point right now with COVID-19, the doom and gloom piling up faster than audiences can absorb it. It’s true the outbreak is far more devastating to lives, jobs and the economy, and Americans need to know what’s going on and how to protect themselves, but are we approaching the place where people simply start tuning out?
We do know there’s a media appetite for positive stories right now, anything to counterbalance the steady stream of bad news. Back in late 2001, I recall producing and distributing a video news release containing a positive story relating to good works the client was doing post-9/11. It received a lot of network and local market airings and one anchor said after the story, “That’s the first good news I’ve heard in a long time.”
Over the last month or so, we’ve been pitching and placing virtual media tours akin to the way newscasters are conducting interviews these days. VMTs are done economically and remotely with no travel required. If the client has a positive story, television, radio and digital platforms are interested in booking spokespeople.
There are, of course, a lot of good things happening that the media is covering such as major food bank donations, other private initiatives to help those in need, and the sacrifices healthcare workers, first responders and so many others are making. But PR pros can also play a role if their clients are likewise trying to make a difference during this difficult time.
Kevin Foley owns KEF Media in Atlanta.