By Kerry Manos
I am very concerned that the New York Times, with the support of some prominent media figures, recently suggested that the White House daily briefings on the efforts of the COVID-19 Task Force no longer be carried live by the major networks.
Supporters of this idea have alleged that too much misinformation is being given in these sessions, while other observers suspect the real reason is more obvious: President Trump is getting a lot of air time out of the situation while his political opponents are isolated in their homes with little access to their supporters. It doesn’t seem fair.
However, like it or not, Trump is president and he is therefore the one to take charge of the federal government’s response to the crisis. Any president would be in the same position and would respond in the same way.
It is important for our leaders to give the anxious public as much information as possible, as well as give valid hope and encouragement. Moreover, the daily briefings are not all about Trump. Most of the detailed presentations are given by task force members who are true authorities in their fields, not politicians or journalists.
Many of us, especially those in the so-called vulnerable population, are intensely interested in the day-by-day progress of this fight. We’re isolated at home and we have plenty of time to sit through two hours of presentations as well as the questions and answers. And there are lots of us out there, apparently.
According to recent Neilson ratings, more people are watching the White House daily briefings than normally watch Monday Night Football and that doesn’t count those, including many in my family, who watch on the internet.
Understandably, this daily TV exposure is galling to the anti-Trump members of the media. But their proposed solution is to deny the public easy access to the briefings. They apparently want us to rely on journalists, who, in most cases, know no more about the various relevant subjects than we do, to watch the briefings for us. They would presumably then filter out the parts they think are “true” and that they believe we, the public, need to know and feed us those tidbits along with commentary to help us interpret what they tell us.
The vast majority of people in this country, regardless of their politics, want to see events first-hand and think for themselves. People know if something doesn’t pass the sniff test they can switch the channel or go online and check facts or find another intelligent view.
And certainly, most people believe the proper role of the media in this country should be to provide information, not restrict or censor it.
One of the dangers posed by this pandemic is that people can make rash decisions when they are afraid. Few things would be more rash than setting the precedent of denying American citizens direct access to a newsworthy event so that the press can filter it first.