How the Media Covered Biden’s COVID-19 Diagnosis

From The Poynter Report with  Tom Jones:

At 10:32 a.m. Thursday, NBC News broke into programming. ABC News and CBS News soon followed. And for the next couple hours, the cable news focused on one story:

President Joe Biden tested positive for COVID-19.

Yes, understandably, it is a big story. He’s the president. He’s 79 years old. Even CNN, which has been trying to be more responsible about not overhyping stories, dusted off its “BREAKING NEWS” banner. And it truly was “breaking news.”

But the cable networks also had a difficult time balancing urgency — again, we’re talking about the president and a 79-year-old — with what appeared to be a story that really didn’t feel that urgent. Biden, who is fully boosted and taking the antiviral drug Paxlovid, appeared to be suffering only mild symptoms and was continuing to work after testing positive.

At 12:18 p.m. Eastern, Biden’s Twitter account tweeted a photo of the president sitting behind his desk and said, “Folks, I’m doing great. Thanks for your concern. Just called Senator Casey, Congressman Cartwright, and Mayor Cognetti (and my Scranton cousins!) to send my regrets for missing our event today. Keeping busy!”

Then, just after 2 p.m. Eastern, Biden put out another tweet with a video of him telling viewers that he is “doing well” and “getting a lot of work done.”

News outlets such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today and The Wall Street Journal also featured the story prominently on their websites. Although, to the credit of all of them, they also emphasized that Biden’s symptoms were mild — which was the responsible thing to do.

In the end, the story had to be reported on, but news outlets did handle it well. And to be fair, the news outlets didn’t ignore other stories. The Biden news didn’t monopolize the afternoon’s newscasts.

But regarding the Biden story, the big takeaway — and something that CNN, in particular, did a really good job of emphasizing — was how COVID-19 is still very much in our lives. And, it also revealed what appears to be the best way to combat the virus.

CNN and its team of experts stressed how vaccines, boosters and drugs such as Paxlovid all appear to be helpful for most people fighting COVID-19, particularly this new variant. It also reminded viewers that being diligent about wearing masks and washing your hands remains critical.

For the most part, media outlets took Thursday’s breaking news about Biden and treated it properly — with context and responsibility.How the Media Covered President Biden’s Covid-19

There was one awkward moment during Thursday’s White House press briefing when White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre seemed to get a touch testy when a reporter asked if it was known where Biden might have gotten COVID-19.

Jean-Pierre said, “I don’t think that matters, right. I think what matters is we prepared for this moment.” She then went on to finish that answer by talking about vaccinations and booster shots.

Later in the press conference, Jean-Pierre was asked about her “I don’t think it matters” response — as she should have been.

Jean-Pierre said, “I think what I was trying to say is what’s important now is that he has mild symptoms, is that he is working from the (White House) residence on behalf of the American people, that’s our focus. Look, we knew this was going to happen.”

That’s a far different answer than “I don’t think it matters” and still didn’t answer the question of where and when Biden might have contracted COVID-19. Now, it’s impossible to know exactly when and where, but it’s still important to track Biden’s movements and contacts over the past couple of weeks. It was absolutely a reasonable question and it was not a good answer.

Oh, and since we’re talking White House press secretaries, former press secretary and soon-to-be MSNBC host Jen Psaki appeared on the network Thursday and, according to Politico’s Eugene Daniels and Garrett Ross, said, “What they need to do over the next couple of days is show him working and show him still active and serving as president, and I’m certain they’ll likely do that.”

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