AS THE CORONAVIRUS SPREADS with unsettling speed across the world, so has press coverage of hoarding. Food. Medical supplies. Toilet paper. Panicked citizens with frustratingly little control over a pandemic are instead seizing upon one thing they can do, which is stock up for what feels like an apocalypse.
News outlets can’t get enough of these stories. Local, international, tabloids, institutions, across every medium, reporters are telling consumers over and over that their neighbors are buying too much for stores to keep essentials in stock. The saturation level raises an uncomfortable question: Is our coverage part of the problem?
“Panic buying is newsworthy and should be covered,” says Jon Sawyer, executive director of the Pulitzer Center, which trains and funds journalists around the world. “What is irresponsible is ignoring the larger context and data people need to make informed decisions.”