It is a matter of fact that the modern world is experiencing an unprecedented crisis that affects virtually everyone’s life on the planet. It is therefore no surprise that news about coronavirus pandemic is filling the slots in the international media outlets and flooding social media, with the need for continuously updating the information about what is happening around the world and to feed hungry readers trying to make sense of the new world they are living in. It is also worth mentioning that, in the digital era, news are no longer confined within the restrictions imposed by traditional press, and that in the past weeks there have been other important happenings, also related to the global Covid-19 pandemic, that can have a huge impact on the world as we know it, like the first wave of collapsing oil prices as a consequence of the “oil war” in March between Saudi Arabia and Russia.
However it took another unprecedented occasion for the spotlight of media to even briefly give way to the other news: the fact that, for the first time in history, the price of oil benchmarked negative on the stock market. This drop is indeed also a consequence of the global pandemic, due to the sudden huge drop on demand because of cuts on production and the consequences of a global lockdown. Also, in a rare moment of the oil market history, the speed of reduction of the oil supply is far less than the reduction of the demand, creating logistical problems; in other word, there is no more space to store barrels, which caused the negative price for the oil. Apparently, the agreement of the Opec Plus along with the support of the United States aimed at cutting the production by May has not been enough to prevent the damage over the oil market. The heavy consequences of the price fall will inevitably hit the economy of many countries whose lifeline of economy is oil, potentially creating a domino effect on the global political scenario.
The modern world already knows how turmoil in such a sensitive commodity like oil can lead to large scale consequences on the global economy and lifestyle, and the media have already covered this story before. In the oil crisis of 1973, when Saudi Arabia decided to cut the oil production by 10%, along with an embargo on the exports to the United States, it brought a shock to the oil market with a resulting energy crisis that deeply affected the global economy.
We know that mass media exercise an immense power in our world: it defines our perception of reality as we know it, and it tells us what is and what is and what is not important at any given time. But covering an oil crisis is notoriously difficult, due to the myriad of implications and factors involved. The consequences of the combination of both a pandemic and an oil market collapse are potentially catastrophic, and it is logical to expect that they will probably be the driving factor for how worldwide media will set the agenda of news coverage in the coming months. However, the intense psychological pressure produced by such large scale events maybe too much for the public to absorb in a moment when panic due to the Covid-19 pandemic is already being dealt with. Is this a conscious approach by media (although perhaps a difficult one) towards a cautious behaviour, to avoid sensationalistic headlines in order to reflect global needs and priorities in such a peculiar moment of modern history? Time, and fluctuation of the oil market in the near future, will tell.
(You can read the last article by Ghazal Poorhasan here)