Another dot in the blogosphere?

Not newsworthy

Posted on: October 22, 2021

This tweet reminded me about “breaking news” earlier this week. 

In the rush to report the passing of Colin Powell, some news agencies reported that he had died of COVID-19 complications and that he was fully vaccinated.

The same rush-to-report news groups forgot to also be responsible by reporting that he was immunocompromised. He had myeloma (a form of blood cancer) and was diagnosed with Parkinsons. 

Video source

All this was reported by CNN’s Don Lemon. He also responded to fear-mongering by “news” channels, e.g., vaccines did not seem to be effective.

If such news channels or agencies were responsible, they would also have reported how Powell’s conditions meant that he was more susceptible to infection. For example, the American Cancer Society explained this in as much lay speak as it could:

In multiple myeloma, the myeloma cells crowd out the normal plasma cells, so that antibodies to fight the infection can’t be made. The antibody made by the myeloma cells does not help fight infections. That’s because the myeloma cells are just many copies of the same plasma cell – all making copies of the same exact (or monoclonal) antibody.

Powell was effectively defenceless against COVID-19. He was also in his mid-80s. He might have been a four-star general and a statesman, but he was on a losing battle that he could not negotiate his way out of.

While there are many takeaways from this incident, mine is a reminder that modern information literacy is about not taking news at face value. It is important to build the capacity to read laterally and refrain from reacting immediately.

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