Fighting the Infodemic: Fake News, Public Trust and Public Health Policy

October 7, 2020 4-5:30 pm Eastern Time via Zoom

(Video replay below.)

Produced by Journalism and Public Health Students and Faculty at The College of New Jersey

Natasha Patterson, Assistant Professor of Public Health
Kim Pearson, Associate Professor of Journalism and Professional Writing

The challenge

As the global implications of the COVID-19 pandemic began to become clear in early months of 2020, it soon became evident that quickly disseminating accurate information and maintaining public trust would be essential to the development of treatment protocols, policy initiatives and public health measures. However, the 2020 media environment of preprint publishing, rampant misinformation and the politicization of science has made that task so difficult that the World Health Organization declared an infodemic:

An infodemic is an overabundance of information – some accurate and some not – occurring during an epidemic. It makes it hard for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable guidance when they need it. Even when people have access to high-quality information, there are still barriers they must overcome to take the recommended action. Like pathogens in epidemics, misinformation spreads further and faster and adds complexity to health emergency response.

—World Health Organization

Learning goals for the program

1. Attendees will understand the practical effects of editorial decisions and public health policies and their implementation upon efforts to combat COVID-19.
2. Students will examine community sensitivity and health disparities of health care access, justice, and equity with respect to COVID-19, police brutality and community gun violence.


This panel discussion brought together experts in medicine, public health and journalism to discuss ways of ensuring the flow of reliable information about COVID-19 and other serious public health threats. The program is a joint effort between students and faculty in the Journalism and Public Health departments at The College of New Jersey.

Our panelists:

Jacquie Bishop - writer and public health policy advocate Jacquie Bishop is a Black, gay, native New Yorker living in Boston. Her journalism has appeared in Bay Windows, Philadelphia Gay News, the Village Voice, Womanews and various other gay and alternative presses. She has over 50 poetry publications. Jacquie started her public career in 1983 in the West Village, the epicenter of the HIV/AIDS crisis in NYC. She has focused her work on health education, programming and policy.
Oliver Brooks - physician and National Secretary, National Medical Association Oliver Brooks received his undergraduate degree in chemistry from Morehouse College and his M.D. degree from Howard University College of Medicine and completed a residency in Pediatrics at Children’s Hospital-Oakland. He is Associate Medical Director and Chief of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine at the Watts Healhcare Corporation in Los Angeles, Medical Director of the Jordan High School-Based Health Clinic; Chairman of the Immunize LA Families Coalition, Board member of the California Immunization Coalition, and the immediate past president of the National Medical Association. Additionally, he is Assistant Clinical Professor, Western University of Health Sciences as well as a member of many civic organizations.
Melanie Kron - Senior producer, Doctor Radio, Sirius XM Pandora Melanie Kron is a senior producer for SiriusXM Pandora’s Doctor Radio program, where she has covered medical and healthcare news since 2008. Prior to SiriusXM, she was a medical, consumer and breaking news segment producer, and news writer at the Fox News Edge, the national affiliate news feed service for 130 Fox affiliates and an associate producer for ‘WebMD TV: Weekend’ (2000) airing on the Fox News Channel. She began her career with the Science and Technology News Network (STN2) as an associate producer and digital video editor. Kron is a graduate of The George Washington University School of Media Public Affairs (SMPA), where she also studied pre-medicine and exercise science. She’s a Philadelphia native who has lived in New York City for the last 20 years but still loves cheesesteaks wiz wit, will always be an Eagles fan, and believes the word, “jawn” needs to be officially added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists (Twitter)
David Mindich - professor and chair, Temple University Department of Journalism David Mindich is the chair of the journalism department at the Klein College of Media and Communication at Temple University; before that, he was a journalism professor at Saint Michael's College in Vermont, where he served nearly a decade as chair. The author of three books and numerous articles, including ones in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, Mindich was named Vermont Professor of the Year in 2006. For the 2015-2016 academic year, he was on sabbatical, living in New York City and working as a visiting scholar at New York University. Before becoming a professor, Mindich worked as an assignment editor for CNN and earned a doctorate in American Studies from New York University. (Website, Twitter)

Extending the conversation

We have prepared multimedia presentations and essays that provide background on a range of issues related to the challenges of generating and disseminating accurate and actionable information during a public health crisis. A gallery of of those presentations is in development.

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