THERE is one thing about the way the coronavirus is reported in the news that really bothers me.
Every day, we are told just how many cases of the virus have been diagnosed in the country and how many deaths there have been as a result.
Some people complain that this places far too much emphasis on the virus.
They claim that just as many people (and more) die as a result of cancer every day, but they never make the news headlines.
I take their point, especially since the pandemic has caused cancer screening and services to be massively delayed this year.
However, this is not my specific complaint. My issue is with the sentence that almost always follows the first two statements.
After the reporter has said how many people have died that day, they also say just how many of those were elderly or had underlying health conditions.
This sentence implies an attitude that worries me.
It conveys a sense that the reporter believes those deaths are not as important as others.
That the reporter believes that those people were going to die soon anyway, regardless of what killed them.
I must admit to being personally hurt by this statement.
As you all know, I have multiple sclerosis. So, if I were to catch coronavirus and die as a result, I would be included in the number of deaths that are discounted that way on the main evening news.
It makes me feel very unsettled every time I listen to the news.
I feel as if a negative judgement is being passed on my life and on the lives of all of us who are either elderly or have underlying health conditions.
Why are the media showing such a callous disregard for our lives in this way?
Do they really think that our lives are not as full or as vital as those of others?
Do they truly believe that the days, weeks, years, or even decades we have yet to live are not as important or as rich?
Or is this use of language merely a way for them to distance themselves from the virus?
A way of reassuring themselves that they are young and healthy and therefore not at risk of dying from it?
I have to assume that the latter is true. At least, I hope it is. The former is too dark to contemplate.
When the language used in the media writes you and your life off as carelessly as this, it sets you thinking.
I do not believe these reporters are aware of the impact of the words they use.
I do not think they deliberately set out to hurt the elderly or those who live with underlying health conditions.
Yet this is what they do because of the words they choose to use.
I am now questioning myself about the way I use language.
I use thousands of words in my work every day. Am I always careful enough about how I use them or are there occasions where I have been careless?
Do I show an awareness of the experiences of others or do I alienate them in the way I choose to communicate?
I would hate to think that anyone reading my words might feel I was undermining or undervaluing their lived experience.
The differences between us and the many ways we live our lives are what make our human world so interesting.
For the most part, nobody has the right to say or imply that the life lived by one person is more valuable than any other.
The end of the year is fast approaching and before long, we will be contemplating whether or not to make New Year’s resolutions.
I have already decided to take greater care when choosing words.
I wonder if I can call on those who report on the coronavirus to do likewise?