Recently, I’ve noticed a trend of major news websites publishing stories about CEOs who cut their own salaries for the benefit of their workers. Though regarded by some as a heartwarming tale of human kindness, there’s a much more concerning takeaway from these types of incidents: the fact that billionaire CEOs can afford to pay thousands of their employees by simply taking away a portion of their own salary (not including their money in stocks, bonds, etc.), which only goes to show the massive wealth gap between the top of the pyramid and the base.
This formula of uplifting stories with a quiet, urgent, underlying warning isn’t limited to the recent coronavirus news either. Over the past decade, we’ve seen an exponential increase in these types of headlines: students band together to help friend buy insulin, community raises money to get homeless man gifts for Christmas, heroic bystander stops mass shooter. Society has become used to reading these cherry-picked headlines that emphasize the good deeds over the issues themselves. Yes, it is important to highlight the beneficial efforts of others, but this type of behavior cannot be normalized to the point that readers are directed away from the core issue. When we see a headline praising students who helped their friend get insulin, we celebrate it, and then we move on without thinking: why is it that students, children, have to pool their money together to help fellow children receive medication necessary for their survival? We have gotten to the point where people read headlines about others not being able to afford life-saving medication and we celebrate the fact that they’ve just managed to scrape by. Where are the stories when next month rolls around and this time there is no fellow student safety net? Where are the stories when families choose not to go to the hospital over fear of medical costs induced debt? Where are the stories when these people die?
Around 130 people are estimated to die everyday in the United States from opioid-related drug overdoses, and approximately every 37 seconds, a person dies from cardiovascular disease. In our own New Haven, there is an ongoing fentanyl crisis. These are all newsworthy, head-turning statements, so why aren’t they in the papers now? The onus shouldn’t be on the consumer to read between the lines and find the bigger, invisible headline.
The media needs to report the facts straight up, truthfully and honestly. There is no point to grasping at straws, trying to find the silver lining of a cloud if the cloud never existed in the first place. Skirting around issues and spinning a positive message from them is counterproductive—the media must change their approach, and if they don’t, then we consumers must demand this change, lest our society never address the bodies dropping every 37 seconds.