How Media and Politicians Misdiagnosed the COVID-19 Pandemic
As Canada was in the grips of the worst pandemic in a century, Canadian media struggled to tell the story. Newsrooms, already run on threadbare budgets, struggled to make broader connections that could allow their audience to better understand what was really happening, and why. Politicians and public health officials were mostly given the benefit of the doubt that what they said was true and that they acted in good faith.
This book documents each month of the first year of the pandemic and examines the issues that emerged, from racialized workers to residential care to policing. It demonstrates how politicians and uncritical media shaped the popular understanding of these issues and helped to justify the maintenance of a status quo that created the worst ravages of the crisis. Spin Doctors argues alternative ways in which Canadians should understand the big themes of the crisis and create the necessary knowledge to demand large-scale change.
“Spin Doctors is a remarkable, month-by-month account of the Canadian media’s interest, lack of interest, and choices driven by political and economic interest during the opening waves of the COVID-19 pandemic. With intricate detail and masterful research, Nora Loreto’s deft analysis pulls no punches and uncovers truths from multiple angles—narrating an all-too-real story of ill-prepared politicians, a panicked population, and Canadian journalism’s complicated response to the story of a lifetime. ”- Niigaan Sinclair, Columnist at The Winnipeg Free Press & Associate Professor at the University of Manitoba
“In this clear-eyed retrospective of Canada’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, Nora Loreto interrogates media practices and political calculations to confront our focus on protecting capital at the expense of protecting people — be it through racist negligence, the avoidable crisis of long-term care homes or the lack of basic worker protections. Loreto’s comprehensive analysis offers an invaluable reckoning that makes it an essential read.”- Shree Paradkar, Toronto Star Columnist
Loreto decries the propagation in the early stages of the pandemic of what she calls the “myth of individual responsibility,” whereby an emphasis by both government and media on things like masking and distancing, while clearly useful on the micro level, also served to obscure bigger causal issues. The result, she writes, has been a corrosive social atomization that makes class divisions and economic inequalities — with their disproportionate impact on minorities and the most vulnerable members of society — all the more starkly evident.
“We’ve seen that over and over,” said Loreto. “Any place where there was a crack in social solidarity, COVID got in and caused damage.”
–Ian McGillis, Montreal Gazette, Dec 2021
Spin Doctors relies not on one-off tragedies or impersonal statistics but rather a rhythmic and consistent approach to writing that couldn’t make the author’s argument any clearer: Canadian media failed to write stories that connected the country’s pandemic response to its own capitalistic impulses. And we are now paying the price.
In chapters that cover how Canada’s COVID-19 response was informed by everything from systemic racism to the Canada Emergency Response Benefit’s inadequacy to injustice around migrant workers’ rights to ableism, Loreto uses Spin Doctors to ask and answer a variety of questions. Her inquiries hold Canadian media to account in the way media itself should’ve held politicians to account.
–Sarah Krichel, The Tyee, Dec 2021