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Why Media Should Re-frame COVID-19 Around Middle- and Lower-Classes

Written by: Izdihar Hariffin, member of Hunger Hurts marketing team

Status Quo

Last year, over 600,000 M40 households slipped into the B40 group due to the pandemic. While it is quirky and trendy to highlight first world problems like encouraging at-home exercise or addressing sold out baking supplies, the media needs to stop framing COVID-19 around one social class more than the rest. Especially when it is far different than the actual reality that the majority are currently experiencing.


Why is biased content problematic?

Indeed, it is known that the media often shares contents not only for public consumption but also to gauge engagements from them. Hence, attractiveness is an important criteria.

However, we are in a pandemic and the effects it has on the majority are proven brutal. When the media paints the world as if everyone’s current headache is learning a tricky dance, it unintentionally masquerades the said brutal impacts as a secluded problem.

  • 7 ways to cope with working from home”

  • Celebrity A found a unique hobby this lockdown”

  • 10 COVID-19 trends to follow”

  • 5 easy lifesaving recipes”

These topics are fine. However, the content is often only applicable towards a fraction of the society. Yet, they are everywhere in the media as if that’s the reality for most Malaysians.


What does it mean to re-frame COVID-19 from the lenses of the middle class and lower?

It means to take a step back, and consider experiences as well as perspectives from the actual majority. It means to share more realistic and relatable content to the actual masses. It means to be a socially responsible media.

We need to rely less on news updates and social media discussions when it comes to socio-economic awareness. When uncomfortable conversations are kept away for only such mediums, it reinforces the narrative that these are secluded cases and it only happens to “others”.


Why should the media be more socially responsible?

The media is close to every individual of all social classes. It has the ability to shape how people perceive the country’s reality. If the media re-frame COVID-19 from the lenses of the majority, it can reassure many that their hardships are not personal but national. It is easy to assume that others have it better, when all you see in the media is content made through perspectives you can never personally relate to. Not to mention, any shared information will then be actually useful for everyone.

Most importantly, it can give a sense of reality to the non-affected regarding the real dire state we are in. On top of the current political feuds, sympathy is unfortunately not enough. To go through this pandemic, we also need great empathy and active contributions from every single Malaysian.


At the end of the day, it’s important to note that this is not to invalidate any first world problem. However, the wrong problem is currently magnified as the country’s reality and that needs to be changed. Hence, at HungerHurts, we urge the media to re-frame COVID-19 around the middle class and lower!


(Derrick A Paulo, 2020). Can the poor in Malaysia cope with the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic?

(Y. Tsfati & J. Cohen, 2013). Perceptions of Media and Media Effects: The Third - Person Effect, Trust in Media, and Hostile Media Perceptions. The International Encyclopedia of Media Studies: Media Effects/Media Psychology.

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