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Covid cases plummet — when does Biden get credit?
good news = no news
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During a January White House press conference which featured lots of tough questions about Covid, and the idea that America after two years was still struggling to return to normalcy, President Joe Biden was specifically asked about schools. “They’re closing in some areas,” a reporter stressed, as the Omicron surge spread. “What do you say to those teachers and principals and parents about school closings? And what can your administration do to help make up for learning loss for students?”
Biden made an important point in January — 95 percent of public schools remained open. That didn’t seem to matter, as the press for weeks continued to lean into the idea that the U.S. in 2022 remained in the unshakable grips of a pandemic — the variant had “snarled” schools, CNN reported — and Biden was to blame.
Presenting the pandemic in a silo, instead of a global phenomena, the press made it seem as if Biden had simply done x, y, and z, the Omicron variant wouldn’t have spread this winter.
Today, the status of in-person learning is even more eye-popping — 99.75 percent of public schools are open. There are less than 400 schools nationwide, out of a pool of 130,000, facing active disruptions due to Covid, according to Burbio, which tracks the closing. So where’s the optimistic news coverage about the obvious pivot towards the better?
The media’s long-awaited return to “normal” is upon us in terms of new cases tumbling dramatically, so why isn’t Biden getting credit since the press placed so much of the recent blame on him? Specifically, the media held up Covid as a political loss for the White House all winter long. It was one of his signature “crises.” By that logic, don’t recent developments represent a win, or is the press only interested in detailing White House setbacks?
It’s always been true that the mainstream media are more interested in relaying bad news vs. good news, simply because it’s more compelling and likely more alluring to news consumers. Now for Covid, the press is moving on.
On-air cable news mentions of “Covid” during the first two weeks of February are down 50 percent compared to the first two weeks of January, according to TVeyes.com. When the virus is mentioned lately, much of the conversations are about whether to lift restrictions since cases are down so dramatically.
The press liked it better when Biden was in the crosshairs. “How Much of the Current COVID Crisis Is Biden’s Fault?” Slate asked in January, while The Guardian announced, “The Biden administration has failed its Covid test,” and that Democrats had “given up on saving lives.”
That same month, CNN demanded Biden address his Covid “crisis,” stressing that the pandemic had led to a sense “that events at home and abroad are cascading out of control.” Covid this year spurred, “growing doubts over whether [Biden] can fulfill his promise to solve problems,” according to the network.
Instead of trumpeting the national collapse of Covid cases in recent weeks as good news for the White House, the press has somehow presented the trend as being a problem for Biden. (Heads you lose, tails you lose.)
Yes, cases are way down, the Times noted last week. But its front-page piece stressed that the welcome trend was bad news for Biden because several Democratic governors had announced the lifting of local mask mandates — they had “gotten ahead” of Biden, were putting the White House “in a tough spot” and might make the president “look irrelevant.” (Biden takes a national view on the pandemic, while governors a more local one, a distinction the Times mostly overlooked.)
The paper insisted a further decline in the pandemic might mean more woes for Biden: “If the drop in cases and hospitalizations continues, as many experts expect, Mr. Biden himself will soon have some tough decisions to make.”
That’s what the Times’ Covid coverage of Biden looks like when cases are plunging. Can you imagine if they were still climbing?
It’s the same New York Times that one month ago, at the height of the Omicron surge, ran a 3,000-word story detailing all the “missteps” Biden had made battling the pandemic. (One of his “missteps” was not stopping Republicans from lying about a free, safe, and effective vaccine.) Yet today, with cases plummeting, the Times publishes no lengthy updates to detail Biden’s good political fortunes.
Again and again, the receding pandemic is depicted as a setback for the White House. “Republicans Call on Biden to End COVID's Public Health Emergency Designation,” read an NPR headline this week, in a story that was framed as the GOP being on the offensive against a back-pedaling White House, even as “cases and hospitalizations have plunged.”
Last week, Politico reported, “Republican strategists have described the pandemic” as “a godsend.” Ponder that for a moment.
Republicans and the press piled on Biden all winter, hanging Covid around his political neck. Now that the story has changed dramatically, they’ve gone quiet.
Moving away from covering local Black communities only through the prism of crime reporting, one Tennessee newsroom is making an important change.
Gannett’s Knoxville News Sentinel in Tennessee is telling more diverse, authentic stories that are making an impact, thanks to a new audience engagement initiative called the Digital Advisory Group, or “the DAG.” As part of a 2021 pilot, Knox News paired a Facebook group with one-year digital subscription trials to listen to Black voices and earn their trust. The DAG united community members and journalists to engage one another for more authentic content.
FUN STUFF — BECAUSE WE ALL NEED A BREAK
Aoife O’Donovan, “B61”
Vampire Weekend has “M79,” an exuberant song about a New York City crosstown bus in Manhattan. Now O’Donovan has the captivating “B61,” about her local Brooklyn bus route and the possibility of love that awaits at the journey’s end.
I highlighted O’Donovan’s new album a couple weeks ago. The singer-songwriter’s sound is so lush and mesmerizing. Welcomed Joni Mitchell and Rickie Lee Jones vibes abound, for sure.
So i went down, running down
Took the B61 across town
To where he was waiting at the ice house
Wish it was my house
He took me out back for a drink
Showed me the heart on his sleeve
🎙 Click here to listen to the music that’s been featured on PRESS RUN, via Apple Music.