In recent times, there have been noticeable empty seats at President Trump's daily press briefings. However, it's crucial to clarify that this absence isn't due to news organizations boycotting the events or attempting to silence the President. Rather, journalists are exercising caution in the face of health concerns and the diminishing newsworthiness of these briefings.
The Concerns and Their Impact
Major news outlets, including The Washington Post, The New York Times, and CNBC, have opted to stay away from the press briefings due to worries over health risks. This change in attendance has resulted in a shift in the nature of these briefings. With seasoned White House reporters keeping their distance, the President has primarily engaged with TV journalists, some from smaller, far-right conservative news channels that typically wouldn't receive such prominent exposure.
This decision to withdraw reporters came about after two White House correspondents were suspected of having contracted COVID-19. Although one of them later tested negative, the concerns over the safety of journalists remained paramount.
The decision to withdraw reporters from these briefings stems from both health considerations and a growing sense of diminishing newsworthiness. The President's briefings have been criticized for the dissemination of disinformation regarding federal efforts to combat the coronavirus outbreak.
President Trump has at times overstated the availability of testing, promoted untested drug regimens as potential cures, and spent considerable time criticizing reporters for asking questions he didn't like. Some critics have suggested that these briefings have transformed into quasi-campaign rallies to support his reelection efforts.
Media Organizations' Response
Some media organizations have concluded that these briefings are no longer newsworthy enough to warrant their presence, which is an unusual stance for a leading news outlet. Nevertheless, CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News continue to cover the briefings. The Washington Post, although no longer sending reporters to the briefings, is still reporting on them and live-streaming them on its website.
Some possible solutions to address these issues include creating a permanent outdoor space at the White House to permit more distance among reporters, with microphones that can be cleaned rather than passed around – a practice that is risky amid the current circumstances. Social distancing guidelines have already prompted reductions in the number of briefing-room seats, further influencing the relative prominence of media organizations that choose to send reporters.
In summary, the absence of journalists from President Trump's daily coronavirus briefings isn't an attempt to silence the President but rather a response to health concerns and the perception that these briefings have become less newsworthy. While some media outlets continue to cover them, others have opted for a more cautious approach, emphasizing the safety of their reporters. These changes reflect the complex dynamics surrounding the role of the media in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and the unique challenges it presents.