ESPOSITO: Coronavirus has shone light on citizen heroes


Column: Unapologetically

With universities closing down around the East Coast as the novel coronavirus continues to spread in America, the conversation surrounding it has become inescapable. 

Princeton University has officially switched to online classes and Rutgers has asked its staff to prepare its students in the event we do the same. Many are preparing for the possibility of not returning to New Brunswick after spring break. 

There are many varying opinions of the coronavirus outbreak throughout campus. Some are urgent to leave school, terrified of contracting the disease. Others feel the pandemonium over the virus is overbearing, arguing that the flu is more deadly and we have the resources to survive the virus. There is no disputing that the world is in a panic. The markets are tumbling as international trading is at a halt, Western countries have more restrictions than they have had in decades in an effort to slow the virus. 

Though the virus is spreading, there is no worse battleground than China, where the disease originated. Due to the high international ratio we have here at Rutgers with many students here from China, it would not be surprising if they were personally affected by this disease. 

I was sitting in my class when the unavoidable coronavirus topic was mentioned. This is a journalism class, a small, twenty-five person classroom with room for a lot of discussion between peers. My professor asked us to look at the massive story of the coronavirus from the perspective of a journalist and how the story has redefined the media. The girl sitting next to me raised her hand.

She is quiet and she usually never speaks up. It was her first time raising her hand in class all semester and the professor eagerly gestured for her to speak up. She explained that she was an international student from China. There was a silence throughout the room, a mutual feeling of people worried if they had said something to insult her or upset her.  

The girl next to me said that the coronavirus was the worst thing to happen to her country in decades, but looking at the perspective of a journalist, it did a beautiful thing for her country. It made them fight back.

The Chinese media is extremely censored. The internet is blocked, each media outlet goes directly through the government before reporting news. So, it was no surprise that when the epidemic of coronavirus started, many facts were kept from the citizens of China, and the severity of the situation was withheld from the rest of the world. 

So, for the first time, an outpour of citizen journalists emerged from China, pledging to show the world the truth of the havoc going on in China today. Citizens posted videos illegally online, racking up thousands of views on Youtube, which is prohibited in China. 

Two notable people are Fang Bin and Chen Qiushi, who reported from the capital of the Hubei province, Wuhan, sending any information they could gather to the world. 

Both of these journalists said on their channels they knew it was only a matter of time before their sites were shut down by the government. Since then, they have both disappeared and their channels have gone quiet. They are rumored to be quarantined. 

Despite the repercussions, many people in China have come forward for the good of their country to help in any way they can. They put their own well-being second and journalism first. They are well aware of what will happen to them, but they put others first. With journalism, they are bringing the light of information to help those in need. 

The epidemic of the coronavirus has ruined lives. Researchers and governments are working tirelessly to find cures and end the worldwide panic. But as the quiet girl in my class said, it is also selfless and inspiring acts from people China. 

In the midst of terrible things, heroes emerge.  

Laura Esposito is in the School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in journalism and political science. Her column, "Unapologetically," runs on alternate Tuesdays.

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