Lessons from News Fatigue

I’ve been tossing up what to post during this time, which can only be described as “unprecedented”. That’s a word Australian’s have heard a lot of already in 2020, and I’m not sure it packs as much punch as it used to. I feel like everything is ‘unprecedented’ at the moment. There is no ‘normal’ and we are all winging it, adapting to the new and emerging issues every day, sometimes by the hour.

I used to be an avid news enthusiast. At the beginning of the day I would read the UK news to learn what had happened in the world whilst I slept. Then, at the end of the day, I would watch the Australian news bulletin to understand what had occurred during the day. I enjoyed listening to the radio broadcasts in the car at the top of the hour and would peruse the online pages throughout the day to catch the latest headlines. I even subscribed to the Daily Drive News Room playlist on Spotify.

Now, I am suffering from news fatigue. A bit like a car crash, I can’t turn away, but I’m positive the current new media cycle is affecting my mental health and resilience levels. The sensationalism of the commercial news headlines is starting to impact on my ability to remain calm, informed and focused.

Today, I awoke and did something different. Instead of reading about the latest from a locked down London, I chose the ABC news site instead and I stumbled across a little nugget of information gold. The only article I read this morning, “What we can learn from the countries winning the corona virus fight” by Leslie, Gourlay, Byrd, Hanrahan, Elvery, Liddy and Spraggon (2020) appealed to me because of its ‘After Action Review’ or ‘lessons learnt’ theme. This is language I am familiar with, I use and most importantly can understand.

You can read the article here if you wish:
https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-03-26/coronavirus-covid19-global-spread-data-explained/12089028

Leslie et al. (2020) have used simple, engaging graphics to display their information and their data. They step through their analysis of the statistics, then add a corresponding synopsis of the actions taken by different governments, highlighting correlations to make conclusions and suggest recommendations for future action. They don’t judge (and let’s be honest, that is hard to do right now, especially of a certain world leader of 52 states), but showcase how decisions made today affect the data of tomorrow.

As a lesson in After Action Review and investigative report writing, I’m giving the team at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation an A+. I’m also going to use what I have appreciated in this article to influence how I prepare my next review of actions following an emergency incident:

  • Simple graphics and statements
  • Connect the data with observations
  • Draw conclusions without judgement
  • Make recommendations that are easily actioned

As a side note, when I went to reference the article, they have updated the graph since this morning to show a downturn in Australia’s COVID-19 infection rate. Never have I been so happy to be “losing” a race! 🙂

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