The ratings for the briefings from President Donald Trump have reached those for top TV reality shows and even primetime sports events. It is estimated that approximately 8.5 million people are watching via cable news. However, there is mounting concern about the problem of misinformation being raised by some health experts and also journalists. Some consider that this could be a dangerous development.
About a year ago regular White House briefings were stopped. But since the present crisis began, President Trump’s regular briefings concerning the pandemic has attracted huge audiences, on par with some of the most popular hit reality shows currently playing and the millions playing at an online jackpot casino. This rise does not appear to be slowing down and is likely to increase further as people are more isolated and concerned about the spread of the coronavirus. Many thousands are connecting on online streaming sites as well as watching via CBS, NBC and ABC networks.
There are complaints from doctors and others in the public health sphere that the information given over at these briefings is either incorrect or is misleading the public. The coronavirus is not the same as the influenza virus but much more deadly. Nor is the death rate equal to that of traffic accidents. Both of these suggestions were put forward by the president and have been strongly rejected. There is also criticism that the President encouraged the use of particular drugs and medications that have not been approved for use in battling the virus and this has had serious consequences.
This concern of journalists goes back even to the 2016 presidential rallies. Journalists have been in two minds as to whether it is beneficial to broadcast to the nation the president’s statements because of the need to make corrections and adjustments. Owing to the present crisis and the risks associated with it, the question has become more pressing.
Rachel Maddow from MSNBC said “I would stop putting those briefings on live TV – not out of spite, but because it’s misinformation”. And Ted Koppel suggested that what makes their industry, the TV news, different is perhaps being forgotten. He said “Training a camera on a live event, and just letting it play out, is technology, not journalism; journalism requires editing and context”. He went on to say, “The question clearly is whether his status as president of the United States obliges us to broadcast his every briefing live?”
Edit or unedited
This is the ongoing discussion between journalists and producers of the networks. Should the president’s briefings be live and unedited. However, owing to the level of the crisis and the way in which it affects all Americans, most have come out in favor of allowing these briefings to be delivered unfiltered so that people can hear the message directly from those in charge.
And the truth is, a large number of people in the United States are relying on president Trump for information. According to a CBS news poll, it appears that 90 percent of Republicans are relying on President Trump to supply them with the correct facts about the virus, whilst only 14 percent of Democrats said they would put their trust in President Trump to do that.
Many of those who are interested in listening to what the President has to say are checking in to Fox News. In fact, approximately half of all those listening to the president’s briefings are doing that via Fox News. Recently it was estimated that 6.2 million had checked into the 6 pm broadcast. A phenomenal number. This number is usually associated with the audience of a highly popular primetime show. Fox also stated that it recently recorded its highest audience since the reporting of the Gulf War in 2003.
Americans are mixed in their relationship to the news media and you can clearly see the way it is divided along the political spectrum. According to a poll conducted by CBS news it was found that only 13 percent of Republicans felt they could trust the news media for accurate news concerning the present crisis. On the other hand, 72 percent of democrats felt they could trust the news media.
President Trump’s animosity towards the independent media networks is well established and this can also be seen during his briefings concerning the crisis, even though these briefings are, or should be, non-partisan events. During one of his briefings he accused journalists of being “angry, angry people” and went on to say that Peter Alexander, an NBC news reporter was a “terrible reporter” when he asked the president to speak to the American people, who were worried and anxious. Peter Alexander had just lost a friend who worked at the network to the virus.
It is argued that President Trump uses his appearances on television to make provocative and unverified claims. He often throws out information about people or situations which are unproven, as he did at a Fox News event about Governor Cuomo of New York. This headline had been published by a known right- wing fringe group site called The Gateway Pundit.
This situation has enraged many. Suzanne Nossel, representing PEN America stated that president Trump’s comments at these news briefings are “an appalling daily spectacle and an international embarrassment.” In response, the White House points its own finger and is critical of the independent networks. Following CNN and MSNBC not showing the concluding part of the president’s recent briefing, Judd Deere, a spokesman for the White House, stated that this was “pretty disgraceful.”
The response from CNN was “we will make our own editorial decisions.” While MSNBC responded that they had done this “because the information no longer appeared to be valuable to the important ongoing discussion around public health.”