Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. On the Media and Asking the Right Questions

 

I always thought that one of the basic jobs of a reporter is supposed to be asking questions. Don’t just report a bunch of random facts or assertions; look at them and see if they suggest something meaningful, or maybe something that remains unexplained. Just today I’ve seen three different news stories that leave me with questions that I would have thought were obvious. But nobody asked them.

First: today Fox News breathlessly announces that the U.S. has passed 35,000 cases, making it the “third-highest infected nation in the world,” after China and Italy. But comparing the absolute number of infections across three nations with vastly different total populations is utterly meaningless. Since the U.S. is, in fact, the third most populous nation on the planet, having the third-highest number of infections is exactly what you would expect, neither particularly good or bad. The unasked question, of course, is why Italy, which is twenty-third in total population, should be in the top three. That seems to me to be very important, and far more significant than the “dog bites man” story that the third-largest nation has the third-highest number of infections.

Second: all day I’ve been seeing news reports about how the Trump administration is talking about lifting the restrictions and allowing the economy to restart, depending on how things look after the crucial fifteen days are up. OK, fine; but all of the business closures and stay-in-place orders are state-level things, and the federal government has no authority to alter them. So what exactly is the administration considering doing? I’m sure there’s an answer, but nobody asked. There seems to be an unspoken assumption that the federal government can do anything.

Third, and most puzzling to me, is something I just saw on the local TV news. First, they ran down the current stats for North Carolina: 336 total cases, with 11 hospitalizations. Then, a few minutes later, a story about how hospitals are asking for donations of protective equipment; we heard from a local nurse who said that in the clinic she works in, they have only one N95 mask that they all have to share. Huh? We have a total of eleven hospitalized COVID-19 patients in the state, and somehow this has caused a shortage of masks? How exactly does that happen? Are all of the masks going to the hotspots like New York? Do we have a problem with distribution or poor planning? No idea, and once again, nobody asked.

There’s a difference between data and knowledge. The news media do a fairly poor job of delivering the first, and it seems to me that they make no effort at all at the second.

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  1. Jim McConnell Member
    Jim McConnellJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Exactly. It’s as if the only things taught in journalism school is makeup, hair styling and how to read a Teleprompter.

    • #1
    • March 23, 2020, at 5:35 PM PDT
    • 9 likes
  2. The Reticulator Member

    Jim McConnell (View Comment):

    Exactly. It’s as if the only things taught in journalism school is makeup, hair styling and how to read a Teleprompter.

    Pretty sure they also have hate-training classes. And they also learn how to give each other awards.

    • #2
    • March 23, 2020, at 7:09 PM PDT
    • 8 likes
  3. HerrForce1 Coolidge
    HerrForce1Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    It’s all the more important to share and spread the articles and authors/reporters who do contribute valuable work. As a former teacher, I try to post anything/anyone to teacher hashtag exchanges. That might be a worthy quest here.

    • #3
    • March 24, 2020, at 2:53 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  4. Stad Coolidge

    Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr.: The unasked question, of course, is why Italy, which is twenty-third in total population, should be in the top three. That seems to me to be very important, and far more significant than the “dog bites man” story that the third-largest nation has the third-highest number of infections.

    They don’t say anything because they know the answer. Northern Italy has a large Chinese labor force with frequent travel to and from the mother ship. Couple that with a long incubation period, an elderly population, and Chinese secrecy and you end up with a real epidemic.

    They don’t say anything because Trump (or any President for that matter) did the right thing. He first banned travel from China, then Europe in total. He had to do all of Europe because of the ease of travel within the EU countries.

    • #4
    • March 24, 2020, at 6:08 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  5. The Reticulator Member

    I’ve long wished there were places (plural) on the internet where questions such as yours could be listed and given prominence while we wait for them to be answered. People often raise good questions that are never asked by journalists, but the good questions are usually lost in a sea of accusations, assumptions, or less useful questions.

    • #5
    • March 24, 2020, at 6:15 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  6. Blondie Thatcher

    Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr.

    Third, and most puzzling to me, is something I just saw on the local TV news. First, they ran down the current stats for North Carolina: 336 total cases, with 11 hospitalizations. Then, a few minutes later, a story about how hospitals are asking for donations of protective equipment; we heard from a local nurse who said that in the clinic she works in, they have only one N95 mask that they all have to share. Huh? We have a total of eleven hospitalized COVID-19 patients in the state, and somehow this has caused a shortage of masks? How exactly does that happen? Are all of the masks going to the hotspots like New York? Do we have a problem with distribution, or poor planning? No idea, and once again, nobody asked.

    There’s a difference between data and knowledge. The news media do a fairly poor job of delivering the first, and it seems to me that they make no effort at all at the second.

    The answer we have been given at my place of employment is we have sufficient stock to meet our current needs. They are still expecting additional COVID-19 patients. I think they all believe we are going to end up like Italy with people showing up in droves. I have refrained from expressing my attitude towards this because I just don’t know and neither do they. They are just planning for the worst case scenario. I think they also think the supply chain my be strained by places like NYC.

    • #6
    • March 24, 2020, at 6:36 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  7. PHCheese Member

    I heard the rats are scurrying out of NYC and going to Florida. Can’t help the elderly there.

    • #7
    • March 24, 2020, at 6:43 AM PDT
    • Like
  8. Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. Coolidge

    Blondie (View Comment):

    The answer we have been given at my place of employment is we have sufficient stock to meet our current needs.

    If that’s true — and I would assume that it is — then why did that nurse claim that her clinic has only one shared N95 mask? I don’t understand why a dramatic statement like that apparently provoked no curiosity at all from the reporter. I would have said “Really? That’s remarkable. What has prevented you from getting what you need? Doesn’t your clinic routinely stock more than that?”

    I have no problem with stories that warn us about an impending shortage. But if somebody tells me that right now, today, doctor’s offices don’t have the supplies they need, then I become curious as to why. It might be a problem that could be fixed.

    • #8
    • March 24, 2020, at 7:12 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
  9. Blondie Thatcher

    Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. (View Comment):

    Blondie (View Comment):

    The answer we have been given at my place of employment is we have sufficient stock to meet our current needs.

    If that’s true — and I would assume that it is — then why did that nurse claim that her clinic has only one shared N95 mask? I don’t understand why a dramatic statement like that apparently provoked no curiosity at all from the reporter. I would have said “Really? That’s remarkable. What has prevented you from getting what you need? Doesn’t your clinic routinely stock more than that?”

    I have no problem with stories that warn us about an impending shortage. But if somebody tells me that right now, today, doctor’s offices don’t have the supplies they need, then I become curious as to why. It might be a problem that could be fixed.

    The only thing I can think of about the clinic is they may have never had that many N95 masks to begin with. I know in my department at the hospital we don’t have them because we don’t use them on a regular basis. I can tell you that some people are always just a little on the crazy side when it comes to things being out of the norm. As we all know, the news will find just the right person to ask questions of to make it appear a horrible situation. I can tell you there are certain people in my own unit that I would hate to have them ask questions of because they would make it sound like the sky is falling when it really isn’t. They would be the very ones that the reporter would seek out or at least be the only ones that get on TV.

    • #9
    • March 24, 2020, at 7:21 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  10. Suspira Member

    Stad (View Comment):
    They don’t say anything because they know the answer. Northern Italy has a large Chinese labor force with frequent travel to and from the mother ship. Couple that with a long incubation period, an elderly population, and Chinese secrecy and you end up with a real epidemic.

    Wow. This is completely new information for me. Has this been explored anywhere in print?

    • #10
    • March 24, 2020, at 9:41 AM PDT
    • Like
  11. ClementContardo Coolidge

    Suspira (View Comment):

    Stad (View Comment):
    They don’t say anything because they know the answer. Northern Italy has a large Chinese labor force with frequent travel to and from the mother ship. Couple that with a long incubation period, an elderly population, and Chinese secrecy and you end up with a real epidemic.

    Wow. This is completely new information for me. Has this been explored anywhere in print?

    Go to spectator.org and find the Special Report by Robert Stacy McCain, Coronavirus: The Price of Luxury, written on March 20.

    • #11
    • March 24, 2020, at 10:28 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  12. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHillJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    One of the problems with “reporters” is that too many of them either come from political backgrounds or are now married to politicians. All they understand is the partisan aspect of any situation.

     

    • #12
    • March 24, 2020, at 10:37 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  13. Roderic Reagan

    Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr.: we heard from a local nurse who said that in the clinic she works in, they have only one N95 mask that they all have to share.

    Must be crowded!

    Once upon a time masks and other personal protective items were made of cloth and were simply laundered and re-used. You can still buy cotton cloth masks from Amazon.com.

    Regular masks and N95 masks are about equal in their protection according to an NIH study. Viruses can get through either type. I think the main thing they do is keep people from touching their faces.

    • #13
    • March 24, 2020, at 10:43 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  14. cirby Member

    PHCheese (View Comment):

    I heard the rats are scurrying out of NYC and going to Florida. Can’t help the elderly there.

    There were some calls to shut down air travel between NY and Florida, but it was sadly never implemented.

    I have, however, heard some retirees talking about how they’re basically shunning any New York snowbirds who decide to come down here right now.

    Edit: Whoops! I spoke too soon.

    Governor DeSantis just announced a 14 day isolation period for people arriving from NY and NJ, paid for by the persons being isolated, and punishable by a fine or jail time.

    Some of the press is calling it “self-isolation,” but that’s not how the order reads:

    https://www.flgov.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/EO-20-80.pdf

    • #14
    • March 24, 2020, at 10:44 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  15. Stad Coolidge

    cirby (View Comment):
    Governor DeSantis just announced a 14 day isolation period for people arriving from NY and NJ, paid for by the persons being isolated, and punishable by a fine or jail time.

    This sounds like kidnapping with the victims paying their own ransom . . .

    • #15
    • March 25, 2020, at 6:23 AM PDT
    • Like
  16. Doctor Robert Member

    cirby (View Comment):

    PHCheese (View Comment):

    I heard the rats are scurrying out of NYC and going to Florida. Can’t help the elderly there.

    There were some calls to shut down air travel between NY and Florida, but it was sadly never implemented.

    I have, however, heard some retirees talking about how they’re basically shunning any New York snowbirds who decide to come down here right now.

    Edit: Whoops! I spoke too soon.

    Governor DeSantis just announced a 14 day isolation period for people arriving from NY and NJ, paid for by the persons being isolated, and punishable by a fine or jail time.

    Some of the press is calling it “self-isolation,” but that’s not how the order reads:

    https://www.flgov.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/EO-20-80.pdf

    Wow. Why not just stop the planes from landing?

    • #16
    • March 25, 2020, at 6:50 AM PDT
    • Like
  17. Phil Turmel Coolidge

    Stad (View Comment):

    cirby (View Comment):
    Governor DeSantis just announced a 14 day isolation period for people arriving from NY and NJ, paid for by the persons being isolated, and punishable by a fine or jail time.

    This sounds like kidnapping with the victims paying their own ransom . . .

    Yeah, I expect lawsuits over this. And for Florida to lose.

    • #17
    • March 26, 2020, at 1:19 PM PDT
    • Like