Corporate Media Cronyism is Undermining Public Faith in the Press

Major media outlets have repeatedly failed the public during this outbreak. Will there be any accountability?

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President Donald J. Trump takes questions from the press during a coronavirus update briefing Sunday, April 19, 2020, in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour)

If American voters are unhappy with Donald Trump, and the job he has done as president and in handling the Covid-19 outbreak, there is a simple, effective, constitutionally proscribed remedy ready at hand.

Come what may, the election that will determine if Trump serves a second term as president will take place in November. The moratorium on Donald Trump’s presidency will continue on schedule to its inevitable conclusion. Whatever that may be.

If only there were a solution for the press that were as straightforward.

That the U.S. media at large has failed to objectively cover the Trump administration is well-known on the right. That the the U.S. media failed to objectively cover the Bernie Sanders campaign well-known on the left.

Now, an even larger swath of the population has noticed a few odd things about how media networks have covered the Covid-19 outbreak.

While the Covid-19 outbreak has indeed been terrible, and any death toll is a devastating loss, it has not escaped public notice that early scientific models which predicted 2 million U.S. deaths- even if social-distancing and shut-downs took place- were horribly wrong.

The projections have since been revised down from 2 million, to 1 million, to 250 thousand, to 100,000, to 80,000, to 60,000 and lower. While the U.S. is still seeing the death count rise from Covid-19, the rate of new infections has begun to level off. The U.S. has now tested more people for the virus than any other country on Earth.

In many places, there has not be the surge in Covid-19 cases that experts predicted. Hospitals are empty all across the country. In states that have seen fewer than 100 deaths- total- there is no reason for people to adhere to the same type of precautions and shut-downs needed in places like New York. It is not heartless, not selfish, and not nonsensical to say so.

In the name of covering the crisis for the greater good, the U.S. media has used footage from over-run Italian hospitals to make the outbreak in New York look worse than it is; consistently and constantly overemphasized the direst predictions; entertained worst possible scenarios; and denounced any dissenters, whatever their qualifications, as heartless monsters.

Major media companies have done almost no reporting on any of the good news; we all heard warnings about dire ventilator shortages. Yet we have heard nothing about the surplus of ventilators now available.

We know about one of Trump’s mutual funds owning a small stake in the company that makes hydroxychloroquine, a potential Covid-19 treatment Trump mentioned during a press conference when discussing advancements towards Covid-19 treatments.

Yet we know almost nothing about the many strides that have been made, all around the world, towards treatments, vaccines and cures.

When the story about Trump profiting on his “endorsement” of the cheap, widely available drug commonly used to treat malaria and other serious conditions, hit the airwaves, political junkies, especially on the right and in the middle used a new rule:

The 48-hour rule: Read something salacious, something damning against Donald Trump, give it 48-hours see if it pans out.

Frequent readers of political news saw the disclaimer encoded in the (since edited) headline: Small stake. How little would that stake have to be for the Times to admit as much in its own headline? The answer, as it turned out, as the news cycle turned, was between $99-$3000- is very little indeed.

Not even Snopes could run cover for the New York Times on this claim. It is mostly false.

48-hours later, anyone misled that Democrats finally had Trump dead-to-rights who was paying the slightest bit of attention to the story knew it for what it was.

What Van Jones famously, and long before the Mueller Report, called the Russia investigation: A big, fat nothing-burger.

Democrats who hate Donald Trump like these stories; they confirm preexisting biases, which human beings like very much. Voters as yet undecided about Donald Trump see stories like these as blatantly manipulative.

The New York Times may think it is helping elect Democrats with a story like this. But by muddying the waters about Donald Trump, making him appear guilty when he isn’t, Trump is given the best possible camouflage against legitimate criticisms against him.

In fact, if you think the U.S. media is doing a good job- in general- and in covering the Covid-19 outbreak, you are in the minority and you likely fit a certain political profile; an Obama-Democrat, who hates Donald Trump, is lukewarm at best about Joe Biden and genuinely surprised that Democrats are actually having to run against Trump.

A certain segment of the Democrat-voting public thought Trump’s incompetence and misdeeds would have removed him from office by now, if not removed him to a jail cell.

That this has not happened, and Democrats must instead run against Trump as they would against any other incumbent president presents a certain conundrum when it comes to defending the Democratic Party:

If Trump is indeed as bad as they say he is, as stupid, and as dangerous, why haven’t Democrats managed to remove him?

On the other hand, if Trump isn’t as bad as Democrats say he is, neither as stupid nor as dangerous as he is often portrayed by his detractors, that would explain why Democrats haven’t removed him.

But it doesn’t explain why the Democratic Party’s opinions on the leader of the opposing political party match the opinions of the press so exactly. And it suggests the motivation for the almost exclusively negative reporting on the Trump administration is about getting Democrats elected; not protecting the American people and Democracy from an existential threat.

The U.S.- and the modern world- has faced viruses like coronavirus before: Swine flu, F1N1, Bird Flu. Trump in office is not enough reason to incite panic by pushing worst-case scenarios and not focusing on any of the many excellent reasons not to panic.

Trump isn’t the only one who strikes a hopeful note amid the coronavirus outbreak. Scientists, doctors, economists; not everyone thinks maintaining a complete shut down for an extended period is advisable.

Covering the Covid-19 outbreak negatively may be affecting the Trump administration negatively; it is certainly having a negative impact on approval ratings for the press.

And it is certainly having a negative impact on the rest of us.

(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)

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