Coronavirus media coverage is resurrecting debates among journalists, politicians, and regular folks over the definition of news. At the center of these discussions are the daily White House/Trump coronavirus news events.
These are news “events” and not news conferences or pressers or whatever one might call them. They do not provide useful information that could not be disseminated in another way; they only strengthen the beliefs of the opposing bases of the Always Trumpers and Never Trumpers. I will bet your salary that a majority of likely voters do not watch these events, and of those likely voters, only a portion read detailed accounts of them. The rest receive headline feeds and posts on social media or watch their local newscasts package.
Local and national media executives apparently did not learn the lesson of four years ago when Trump played them and pushed their buttons with outrageous and self-serving comments, resulting in the media trying to show Trump’s fitness to be president by giving him millions of dollars in free political air time and column inches. How did that work out?
I hear the arguments from newsrooms that viewers want to watch the live events and then call up to complain when a local station cuts away for a competing news conference from city and county officials who have information the community needs to know. This is not really a case of damned if they do or damned if they don’t. If that is the argument, then the media are chasing ratings and not chasing stories. I can tell you for a fact that news organizations will not cover news conferences they deem lacking in news content. Yes, they will make such editorial decisions before the fact every day.
Unless the White House has breaking information that will change the course of mighty rivers, any outrageous quotes or important new information will hold until the next scheduled newscast or until the next posts by attending reporters. Oh, and those creepy quotes from Trump have moved beyond anyone’s definition of news. The man uses the toilet every day, but the media do not report that POTUS used the toilet today.
No, any organization, local or national, that carries these events live and uninterrupted does so with the purpose of unseating Trump. Recent history supports this idea. Remember when members of Congress and the national media did not have time in January and February to report on the virus outbreak in China, and spent their time and resources instead on impeaching the president?
One could compare media members with petulant children, clenching their little fists and stomping their little feet because they did not get their way four years ago. Not carrying the White House coronavirus events live is one way to put Trump in timeout, but that would be the adult thing to do.
Mundus vult decipi.