Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. New posts: Mondays & Wednesdays.
In the interim, I recommend this brilliant essay on what the coronavirus has taught us.
I’m taking some vacation. The plan is to play lots of piano, spend time in my garden, and smile a lot :-)
Rusty Guinn has written a powerful analysis of our current situation. Titled First the People, it explains how the World Health Organization, as well as the US Centers for Disease Control and Federal Drug Administration have badly fumbled the ball.
He observes that the manner in which universities are treating their most economically vulnerable employees during this crisis undercuts their lofty claims about social justice.
He also vigorously rebukes the media. With numerous examples, he demonstrates how the mainstream media downplayed
the risk of COVID-19 for all of January and the first half of February 2020. Even if that meant giving exaggerated voice to every irresponsible New York public health official counseling that fear of gatherings would be worse than the virus. Even if that meant definitively saying on January 31st that COVID-19 would not become a deadly pandemic…Perhaps you remember February 10th, when the New York Times gave voice to the claim that Trump’s ban on travel from China was “extreme”, owing in part to his “extreme fear of germs.”
Guinn then turns his attention to the conservative press:
if you review the unique articles published in January 2020 from every major US outlet, I think that you would probably have gotten the most complete picture from Breitbart. Yes, that Breitbart.
But after mid-February, when the Trump administration shifted to a posture which sought to minimize the risk of a COVID-19 pandemic, when most media outlets began to shift their news coverage to recognize it as a more significant risk, the news coverage and opinion content on Breitbart and Fox News shifted dramatically. Diametrically. Immediately. [original italics]
In other words, the media narrative, on both sides of the aisle, has flipped. Not because the evidence changed, but because journalists have forgotten that their first duty is to honestly inform the public – not promote a worldview. In Guinn’s words:
The institutional failure that has been laid bare is not a national press that made some mistakes in its coverage. It is a media which – across the political spectrum – …acts as if its proper role is to promote…its preferred interpretations of the world, instead of acting as the agent of the people, shedding light on issues that would otherwise be obscured from us by the powerful. [original bolding]
In recent weeks, I’ve been told by some readers that my coverage of this virus means:
-I’m a coward, irrationally concerned about my own personal safety
-I’m wasting time on a non-story
-I’m fear mongering
-I’ve fallen for a hoax
-I’m a disappointment, since don’t I normally critique conventional wisdom?
It can be a thankless job, charting an independent course. See you soon :-)