“A 50-state disaster”
“There’s a space between tuning out and freaking out. We need to find that place,” Juliette Kayyem told me on Sunday’s “Reliable Sources.”
Kayyem is one of my favorite people. She is a national security, intelligence and terrorism analyst at CNN and an adviser to government officials and corporations. This year she has consistently been several steps ahead of the federal government in the response to the coronavirus pandemic.
This is, Kayyem said, a “50-state disaster” the likes of which we’ve never seen. But there are ways to limit the damage. “We know what we will need,” she told me. “We will need surge capacity in our hospitals. ICUs, hospital tents. We will need more personnel who will have to be certified to be doctors. We will need the private sector to protect their workforce so the supply chain continues. And we will need an unequivocal statement by the federal government to remain home. That’s not that hard. And we still have not gotten that. So I’m hopeful — look, all of us are like ‘What happened this week?’ The next question is, for how long” will this last?
The answer is months, not weeks. Kayyem posted a Twitter thread with a more detailed answer here…
Off-air, Kayyem said this is “both a national story and a local one in a way that no disaster has ever been before.” I think it’s a little bit like the arrival of a hurricane 100 years ago,before radars and satellites, when people would feel the rain start to fall and feel the wind start to pick up… But no one knew just how bad it would be or for how long it would last. They just knew they had to seek shelter.
A group of health care leaders are promoting a new hashtag, #StayHome, writing in an op-ed for USA Today, “STAY AT HOME as much as possible. It may be in your community now or it may be soon. Until you hear otherwise from health care officials, even if you have no symptoms. That means avoiding play dates, sleepovers, bars, restaurants, parties or houses of worship. Avoid all crowds.”
On Saturday, during one of our CNN live shots together, Kayyem pointed out that we were both joining from our homes. Viewers are likely to see more and more of that. But each community is different, as the USA Today op-ed acknowledges… And that brings me to the local news angle…
The view from Seattle
“What’s changed there?” I asked Seattle Times editor Michele Matassa Flores on Sunday. “Pretty much everything,” she said. “It’s hard to think of things that haven’t changed. Nearly two weeks ago we began working remotely, pushing people out of the office, which is kind of a hard thing to do with journalists. I would say that as of about a week ago, we’ve been entirely remote.”
Flores said “we’re more aware than ever of local journalism. We’ve heard from our readers — our readership is way up — and the notes of gratification we’re getting from people are really fueling us right now.”
The view from SF
Local newsrooms in affected areas are collaborating and discussing best practices every day. Editors in Seattle, San Francisco, Boston, Philly, Dallas and other cities “have been doing video calls and have a running email chain about how we are reacting. I’m not sure that’s ever happened to such a degree,” SF Chronicle editor Audrey Cooper told CNN’s Diane Kaye.
On “Reliable,” Cooper said her staff has been producing the paper remotely for the past couple of days. “We’ll probably be doing it for the foreseeable future,” she said.
Working from home is a wonderful option that newsrooms didn’t have twenty years ago — but lots of things are missed when in-person interactions are lost. And managers need to remember that in a moment like this. Cooper tweeted on Sunday that she “almost cried” when she stopped by the empty newsroom. “But I also believe we will get through this — as a newsroom, as a city, as a country — if we just band together,” she wrote. “A few weeks of this to help save lives. I’m down for that.”
New beats for reporters…
In Seattle, “we are reassigning almost half of our sports writers now to the news staff,” since virtually all sporting events have been postponed, Flores said. But there’s still sports news to cover: How will “all these shutdowns effect the economy and peoples’ mindsets, and how are people coping in the meantime? What are the contingency plans? When will things start up again? We have some reporters still focused on that.”
When I brought up my concerns about local news cashflow, she said, “We are, of course, seeing an impact on our advertising. Our subscriptions, though, are setting records, even though we’re making our coronavirus coverage free. We are seeing people subscribe at record levels and our readership is through the roof.“
“Yes,” she added, “this is a challenge for a very challenged industry. At the same time, this is proving the worth of local journalism — journalism in general, but I would say especially local journalism — more than anything I can remember in a 35-year career.”
FOR THE RECORD, PART ONE
— Margaret Sullivan‘s Monday column says the pandemic makes the “journalistic carnage” at the local news level “much more clear…” (WaPo)
— Ben Smith spoke with Mark Zuckerberg and DM’ed with Jack Dorsey for his Monday media column titled “When Facebook Is More Trustworthy Than the President…” (NYT)
— WaPo’s banner homepage headline Sunday night: “Fed slashes interest rates to zero in massive intervention” (WaPo)
— My closing message on Sunday’s show: “Social distancing” is really about “physical distancing” – we NEED to stay social – and there are plenty of online tools to do that. At the same time, we can’t forget about people who lack an internet link… (CNN)
— Here’s another way to stay social: A TV call-in show! My better half Jamie will be co-hosting a new 11 a.m. hour call-in show on NY1, “One New York,” starting Monday in NYC… (Twitter)
The known unknowns
“Panic is never useful. But preparation is. What causes panic is uncertainty,” Dr. James Hamblin told me. Plans, guidelines and stockpiles reduceuncertainty.
I asked Hamblin what the US is missing. “We are starting to catch up on prevention,” he said, but “I don’t think we have enough plans in place for what people should do when they are sick.” His point: “Most people don’t have a second home” or a separate wing of a house to hide in, so the risk of spreading the coronavirus within families is high. China opened sick wards…
I was heartened to see Fox’s Jillian Melecalling out the Trump administration’s airport testing screw-ups on Sunday’s “Fox & Friends.” Mele was live at Newark airport. She described the chaos at other airports — hundreds of passengers from Europe packed in like sardines, potentially spreading the virus to others — and said arrivals at Newark weren’t being checked for fever. “F&F” usually trumpets Trump and feeds him bad info, but Sunday was different — Mele’s reporting called attention to the government’s failures.
Other Fox shows reverted to propaganda, however. Matt Gaetz was on “The Next Revolution” saying “America has had the best response to coronavirus in the world” thanks to Trump. Jenna Ellis was on the same show saying this crisis is going to be Trump’s “shining moment.” Oh? Then what explains the “agonizing” and unacceptable delays at the airports?
‘Distancing’ on TV
Wolf Blitzer tweeted this photo of a rearranged “Situation Room” panel:
Guests on CNN’s pre- and post-debate coverage also sat at a distance from one another. And Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders‘ podiums were placed six feet apart, in accordance with CDC recommendations…
Joe Biden’s pledge to pick a female VP was the biggest headline from the CNN/Univision debate Sunday night. Biden “was hoping to make that running mate news tonight,” CNN’s Jeff Zelenyreported. By “pivoting to the future about picking a woman as VP,” Biden wiped away the earlier talk about old votes…
>> For other takeaways from the debate, check out Chris Cillizza’s recap…
The missing moderator
Univision’s Jorge Ramos was scheduled to co-moderate the debate, but he withdrew because, as the network said, he “was in proximity with someone who was in direct contact with a person that tested positive for coronavirus.”
Ilia Calderón took his place at the table. I asked Ramos about his health while the debate was airing Sunday night… He said “I’m feeling perfect. And Ilia is doing a wonderful job. It was the right decision. Too much is at stake.”
Extra precautions for “60 Minutes”
Scott Pelley kept his distance from a mother of four whose family has been quarantined at home for a week:
Conversely, Pelley was required to keep out of New York governor Andrew Cuomo’s space. “The New York Department of Health required we sit 10 feet apart because the state is monitoring the ’60 Minutes’ office where several colleagues have the virus,” Pelley said in his story. Producers were shownmeasuring the distance ahead of the interview…
Two more employees of CBS News have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total so far to six. Last Wednesday, the news division’s NYC offices were emptiedafter two employees fell ill with the virus. One of the new cases is CBS correspondent Seth Doane. I am only publishing his name because he has elected to identify himself and talk about it on the air. According to a Sunday night memo from Susan Zirinsky, he will be on “CBS This Morning” on Monday with a first-hand account.
Most CBS News NYC staffers continue to work from home, but small numbers of people are being allowed into the building for live broadcasts…
Vox Media closes offices after employee tests positive
According to an internal memo, “a Vox Media employee who works at 85 Broad Street tested positive for COVID-19 today; they have not been hospitalized and they are currently recovering.” The memo says“ALL Vox Media offices in the U.S. and abroad will be closed until further notice.” Staffers who were at the Broad Street office “last week” are being asked to self-quarantine.
Newsrooms are disinfecting
Lulu Garcia-Navarro shared a snapshot of “NPR life” amid a pandemic: “I am greeted by our engineer Stu Rushfieldwith assurances the studio all the hosts use has been swabbed down.”
That’s one example of a news outlet taking new precautions. There are scores of other examples. At CNN, “hair and makeup artists are still on call, but correspondents have been urged to handle their own cosmetic needs to reduce the number of staff members on-hand,” the NYT’s Michael Grynbaumwrote over the weekend. When I was in the office, my makeup artist gave me a bag of supplies that I’ll be able to use during live shots from my home office…
FOR THE RECORD, PART TWO
— “Universal Music Chairman and CEO Lucian Grainge has been hospitalized after testing positive for coronavirus…” (Variety)
— This interactive feature was far and away the No. 1 most-read thing on the WaPo website over the weekend: “Why outbreaks like coronavirus spread exponentially, and how to ‘flatten the curve'” (WaPo)
— “Without spilling any internal metrics, I think Jack Nicas may well break the NYT all-time record for page views on a story,” Conor Dougherty says. The story: “He has 17,700 bottles of hand sanitizer and nowhere to sell them…” (NYT)
“As China Cracks Down on Coronavirus Coverage, Journalists Fight Back”
The NYT’s Javier C. Hernández reports: “The Chinese government, eager to claim victory in what China’s leader, Xi Jinping, has described as a ‘people’s war’ against the virus, is leading a sweeping campaign to purge the public sphere of dissent, censoring news reports, harassing citizen journalists and shutting down news sites. Chinese journalists, buoyed by an outpouring of support from the public and widespread calls for free speech, are fighting back.” Read on…
Trump attacks the press for accurate reports on Google
Oliver Darcy emails: At Sunday’s W.H. briefing, Trump laced into the media for its accurate reporting calling him out for misrepresenting the WH’s partnership with Google. “I don’t know where the press got their fake news, but they got it someplace,” Trump said. “As you know, this is from Google. They put out a release and you guys can figure it out yourselves and how that got out.”
Trump is correct in saying that Google did put out a statement over the weekend saying it planned to work with the gov’t to develop “a nationwide website that includes information about COVID-19 symptoms, risk and testing information.” But the statement came *AFTER*Trump’s Friday announcement. According to a tick-tock story from Michael D. Shear and Daisuke Wakabayashi, Trump’s Friday announcement caught the Silicon Valley company completely off guard. Shear and Wakabayashi reported that since Trump’s Friday announcement, Google has “scrambled to coordinate with the White House in an effort to do as much as possible to make the president’s vision for the website a reality.”
>> Related: Tony Romm called out Trump for a related lie in which he said the media “never called Google.” Romm noted, “this is false” and “every news outlet has emails and phone calls showing otherwise…”
>> CNN’s Brian Fung with the bottom line: “Google’s description of its coronavirus site stops short of what President Trump described…“
Devin Nunes spreads dangerous misinfo on Fox
Oliver Darcy emails: During an appearance on Maria Bartiromo’sSunday Fox show, California Congressman Devin Nunes shared some dangerous misinformation: He encouraged young people to continue to go out to restaurants and bars. In fact, Nunes said that “if you’re healthy” it is a “great time” to “go out and go to a local restaurant” or “go to your local pub.”
It should be noted that Fox has over the last couple of days started to take the coronavirus crisis more seriously. But it is outrageous that Baritromo didn’t IMMEDIATELY call Nunes out for misleading Fox viewers in such a dangerous way. What Nunes said ran completely in the face of what the nation’s top health experts have advised. And it’s alarming Nunes isn’t either aware of it, or knowingly misled the audience and put the health of people at risk. He should have been forcefully called out.