Amidst the numerous reported negative effects of COVID-19, the Japanese public was rattled by the headline 'Doctoral Students Have Decreased by Half'. However, a closer examination of the information revealed that the reported drop may be a 'false alarm' based on a series of articles related to this critical decision-making moment for prospective students. Studies regarding doctoral programmes are limited due, in part, to the relative marginalization of degree holders and low recognition of degrees in Japan. Thus, this case study was conducted to clarify the particular situations faced by Japanese doctoral students and how news is reported through digital media. The research revealed that digital news portals may contribute to the deformation and diffusion of information, highlighting the importance of verifying digital information so that students can make informed career-path decisions based on accurate situations and potentials.