Opinion

Reporters Are Ruining Coronavirus Briefings

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Posted: Apr 07, 2020 10:50 AM
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Reporters Are Ruining Coronavirus Briefings

Source: Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour

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Monday evening, Anderson Cooper greeted his ever-dwindling CNN audience with a stark and damning condemnation of the president of the United States and his daily Coronavirus Task Force briefings.

"What you mostly heard was the president. And what you saw was a hijacking. A hijacking of the task force press conference by a president determined to rewrite the history of his early and reprehensibly irresponsible response to this virus," said Cooper. "What the president showed us today is what the nation’s top scientists have to deal with every day- a president who now uses these briefings as a reelection platform, an opportunity to lie, to deflect, to attack, to bully, and cover-up his own deadly dismissals of the virus for crucial weeks."


Of course, Cooper's own network has refused to carry these press briefings for its audience, so Cooper is using his platform to explain to CNN's uninformed viewers his interpretation of the briefing rather than allowing them to watch the content themselves, without editorial interruption, and decide for themselves.

Later in the program, Cooper contended that the White House has not provided key details in its plan to deliver key resources to states that are fighting on the front lines of the COVID-19 battle. Sadly, those details had been revealed during the past several briefings, but Cooper apparently only watches CNN so he was, like his viewers, woefully uninformed.

Cooper's original point that these press briefings are being "hijacked" by the president is a bit off the mark, of course, but deserves analysis.

The briefings are certainly being hijacked, but not by the president. The president can't hijack his own briefing. It's his briefing. But Cooper's assertion tells you everything you need to know about the real problem here.

Cooper and his peers think these briefings are theirs. They think the briefing room is for them. They think they get to make the rules and if the president or his staff don't adhere to them, they are out of line.

Anyone outside of Washington, D.C. and anyone who didn't waste tens of thousands of theirs or their parents' money on a journalism degree know that the truth is the exact opposite.

These are presidential briefings and the reporters are there to record the information delivered at them to the American people.

The briefing room and the functions that happen within it are managed and controlled by the executive branch of the American government. The president runs that branch of government. 

The rules within that room are not set by the reporters or the embarrassing White House Correspondents' Association, they are set by the administration.

If anyone is hijacking these briefings, it's the reporters, not the president.

Watching the briefings on a daily basis, the American people have been able to see the president and his able team deliver information to the American people about this unprecedented situation. They've seen a mix of doctors, scientists, cabinet members, military personnel, members of Congress and business leaders step up and discuss how the American government is mobilizing to confront these challenges.

They aren't always right and they sometimes contradict each other, but the information is delivered directly to us in a way that we can understand and digest.

Then, the president opens up the briefings to questions from reporters. That's when the hijacking takes place.

The reporters tasked with covering the White House are specifically trained with one skill set: political reporting. As a journalist, it's an important tool to have in your arsenal on most days when you're covering any White House, but these days, we need more than that. We need reporters who understand public policies that connect needs in a health crisis with the tragic results of a forced economic shut down like the one we are experiencing now. We aren't getting that.

We're getting questions that are designed to drive a political wedge between Trump and the doctors on his task force. They're designed to deliver a contentious exchange between the president and a reporter that will then provide 40-second video fodder for the prime time news cycle. They're designed to provide b-roll footage that Joe Biden's fledgling campaign can stitch into a deceptively edited television ad. 

The reporters at these briefings are doing what they're paid to do. They are political reporters and they are focused on these briefings from a partisan, political perspective. Fine. But most Americans aren't really interested in that right now. So, these political reporters should stop hijacking these briefings. Right, Anderson?

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Larry O'Connor hosts two separate radio programs on WMAL in Washington DC and on KABC in Los Angeles. He has a daily, 30-minute podcast covering U.S. Politics and featuring interviews with newsmakers and pundits on the biggest stories of the day. Subscribe here.