If there’s one thing this pandemic has made painfully and abundantly clear, it’s that a lot of people don’t trust the media—until the media is telling them exactly what they already want to believe.
Obviously, this was a thing long before COVID-19—as people of all demographics and ideologies are susceptible to confirmation bias—but the pandemic, especially since the start of the vaccine rollout, has provided endless picture-perfect examples of it.
And sometimes the stoking of mostly irrational fear is done through pictures that aren’t so perfect.
On Wednesday, Newsweek published a piece about parents’ hesitancy and outright refusal to have their children vaccinated for COVID-19 as the Food and Drug Administration is expected to approve vaccinations for children as young as five. Now, to be fair, the article was pretty neutral and even-handed. It isn’t an anti-vaxxer op-ed piece or anything like that; it’s just an article detailing the reactions from parents, which range from the anti-intellectual conspiracy nonsense we’ve all seen in our various news feeds, to reasonably concerned parents who are finding it hard to follow the constant new developments in the narrative from medical professionals regarding the vaccine and are simply waiting to see how things shake out before letting their kids get the shot.
Unfortunately, the publication chose to promote this politically and ideologically benign article with a fearmongering photo that is certain to have readers of the anti-vaxx persuasion clutching their pearls and refusing to read anything past the headline.
“Would you give this kid a shot?” the caption asks next to a photo of a white child looking frightened and clutching her teddy bear like she was about to receive a COVID shot administered from the fingertips of Freddie Krueger.
I mean, come on, Newsweek—what are you doing?
Whoever decided this cover photo was a good idea must have been seconds away from going with an image of a syringe with a skull and crossbones symbol before they decided, “Nah, this is a bit much. Let’s go with the ‘scared white girl hiding in the closet from the boogeyman’ look instead.”
Obviously, the fine folks on Twitter had a field day rightfully dragging the photo to hell and back.
Some people pointed out that, not only is the photo irresponsible, but the question it’s captioned with is loaded and dumb.
Don’t get me wrong, as someone who works in media, I get that it is common practice to run with photos and headlines that will draw in traffic, but there’s a line between being clever to attract readers and irresponsible click-bait propaganda.
This photo is basically playing hopscotch back and forth across that line.