(CNN Business)A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.
In his address to the nation Thursday evening, President-elect Biden said about the coronavirus pandemic, “The crisis of deep human suffering is in plain sight.” But here’s a question worth asking: Is it, truly, in plain sight?
The political and national security crisis triggered by domestic terrorism at the US Capitol, and the ensuing impeachment of President Trump, has unquestionably overshadowed the public health crisis. And yet the suffering is still very real and the situation has never been more dire. Earlier this week, the US set another single-day death record when 4,462 people died in one day, according to Johns Hopkins data. Each day brings north of 200,000 new cases. And the total US death toll is approaching 400,000 — a number the country will likely surpass before Inauguration Day.
But you wouldn’t necessarily know that by scanning the front pages of newspapers or the homepages of major news websites this week. I noticed, for instance, that The New York Times and The Washington Post only had one reference each to the virus on their Thursday front pages. When scanning CNN.com earlier this afternoon, there were no coronavirus stories in the top half of the website. And even when outlets are making time or room for the coronavirus, most stories center around the vaccines, not the deaths and economic crisis.
No doubt, journalists are doing their very best to juggle all of these stories. But as we cover DC politics and the fallout from last week’s attack, we should not forget that thousands of Americans continue to lose their lives each day to this ruthless virus. And while the vaccine rollout is gradually improving, the situation right now is, frankly, very alarming and urgent…
East coast bias
Much of the suffering happening right now is coming from the West Coast. In Los Angeles County, one person is dying of Covid-19 every six minutes, according to Hopkins data. Hospitals are struggling. As someone who hails from the Pacific-facing side of our country, but now lives in NY, I can attest to the fact that the East Coast gets special treatment from national news outlets. If it storms in New York or one of our neighboring cities, the whole world knows about it. But the West Coast, far from the biggest newsrooms, doesn’t get that special treatment.
And I’d argue that bias is having a noticeable effect on how the crisis unfolding in L.A. is being covered. When was the last time you saw a national news outlet carry a press conference from a California official on the virus, for example? Compare that to how often Bill de Blasio and Andrew Cuomo were on TV when NY experienced its surge.
Don’t take my word for it — take Sara Sidner’s. The L.A.-based CNN correspondent, who was overcome with emotion during a live shot on “New Day” Tuesday morning, joined Brian Stelter on this week’s “Reliable Sources” podcast. She matter-of-factly said that “there is a bias” and it’s readily apparent now that she lives on the West Coast…
“It looked like a war zone inside”
Sidner told Stelter about recent visits to hospitals that look like war zones. “There are people everywhere,” she said — “people with real emergencies that need an ICU bed are in the emergency room hallways. That’s how little room there is.”
“And to see the doctors and nurses running from person to person,” she said, “it was terrifying, because when you live and work in a community, you are a part of the community. And I was thinking to myself, if I got into an accident right now, or if a friend of mine got into an accident, or a complete stranger, just a fellow American got into an accident — right now, this is where they’re going to be treated: in the hallways, because the Covid patients need to be separated out. That’s insane in the most wealthy nation on Earth. What are we doing?”
Sidner also said that she felt “exposed and embarrassed” when her rage turned into tears on live TV. It is what “we’re taught not to do,” she said. But her human reaction helped draw newfound attention to the Covid-19 crisis, Stelter pointed out. “If it did something to help,” she said, “then I’ll embarrass myself every single day, all day long.” Listen to the full conversation via Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn, or your favorite app…
Headlines from around the country
>> LA Times: “Hospitals teeter on edge of ‘last-resort’ guidelines for care…”
>> SF Chronicle: “California braces for highly contagious new virus variants as vaccinations lag…”
>> Arizona Republic: “Arizona hospital leaders warn care may be rationed…”
>> Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “Georgia reports 100-plus new COVID-19 deaths for third straight day…”
>> Miami Herald: “We asked how hard it is to get a vaccine in South Florida. You answered. And answered…”
>> Chicago Tribune: “Chicago health commissioner: City will keep using COVID-19 tests that FDA says can give false negatives…”
>> Detroit Free Press: “Parents support summer school for students to make up lost ground…”
>> Seattle Times: “Washington state will move to the next phase of coronavirus vaccination in the ‘coming days…'”
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