“As I mentioned in my second blog post, my experience in the course as well as my personal experience with coronavirus has made me quite critical about the current coverage of the pandemic. For me, the course has quite clearly illustrated the benefits of studying something in real-time, while the news and mainstream media have done the opposite.
This is what originally inspired my newsletter asset, as well as the daily coronavirus newsletter from The New York Times. I have been subscribed since late February, and looking back at earlier editions, I was able to identify what I didn’t like about the way the virus was covered. For example, there are bullet points at the top of every newsletter which hastily describe the latest developments for those who don’t want to read or engage further. In the early months of the pandemic, there was a section that listed the current “hotspots.” The terminology eventually switched to “resurgences,” which highlights the irrelevancy of this practice. This is a global issue that has revealed the world’s interdependency. In other words, everywhere is a hotspot. What is not a hotspot today could be one tomorrow.
So how can the average person critically reflect on COVID-19 in real-time? My newsletter is the answer to that question — it’s not as dense as some of the readings and lectures in the course, but also does not have the shock-value of the constant stream of live news being put out by papers like The New York Times. In my newsletter, I decided that instead of trying to cover multiple developments, I would focus on one major piece of news. This week, that happened to be the United Kingdom’s approval of the Pfizer vaccine.
When planning how to structure my newsletter in the most effective way, I thought back to the beginning of the course and a quote from historians at the University of Oslo that I first heard in Lukas Engelmann’s lecture, but encountered many times after: in a pandemic, “the present moves faster, the past seems further removed, and the future appears completely unpredictable” (1). I thought that would be a perfect way to structure the newsletter, with a section for the past, present and future. The news about vaccines is particularly suited to this format because there are clear historical examples of vaccines and their effects on epidemics.
I especially enjoyed writing my “present” section, where I focused on the drawbacks of COVID-19 data in the news. Our lives are dominated by waves, numbers and percentages. Not only does this type of constant, real-time data not give us a particularly accurate picture of the virus, but it also makes it harder to engage critically with the past, present and future in regards to the pandemic. As Nikolaos Olma notes, our experience of the present has been replaced by our “synchronous dwelling” in the past and the future.” We “familiarize ourselves with the spread of the virus by means of several-day-old data that gives us a dated impression of how serious the situation is,” and anxiously look toward the future in hopes that we can return to “normal” (2). With my newsletter, I hope that readers, by confronting this fact and critically analyzing the past, present, and future, can develop a new perspective on the virus. As for the legacy of my asset, I would plan on publishing more newsletters with the same past, present and future format. I would also hope that readers would continue to think about news developments in this same way. Overall, by using the format “past, present, and future,” I was able to look more critically at news developments, bringing in historical lessons, criticisms of the present, and suggestions for the future. ”
Ella Noveck Holmes
Spanish and History
Click here to see Ella Noveck Holmes’ creative asset, a newsletter entitled ‘Magic Bullets’.
Featured Image: Forget-Me-Not by Natalia Lopes
Note: When assets did not have an obvious image available to represent them, and where the student did not wish to have their image included as part of the showcase, we have often selected images from the extraordinary collection in the official United Nations COVID-19 Response Creative Content Hub, for which we are very grateful.