The potential impact of the coronavirus might still be unknown, but the media hype is already plain as day. Particularly when you compare how they are covering this pandemic with the last one, which happened to occur when Barack Obama was in the White House.
To get a sense of the differences in how the press treated these two outbreaks of brand new viruses, let’s look at how the New York Times and CNN – the bellwethers of mainstream journalism in print and on TV – covered each at similar points in the outbreak.
The day after the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a pandemic, and President Donald Trump gave a national address, CNN’s front page was almost entirely devoted to coronavirus.
On the newsstands, two-thirds of the New York Times’ front page was devoted entirely to coronavirus stories.
Obviously, a new deadly disease that is spreading across the country is a big story, as is the WHO’s declaration that it’s now a pandemic. Add in a White House address in which Trump declares a travel ban, widespread school closures, cancelations of events, including the NBA season, and a stock market crash, and it’s huge news.
But the media coverage of the outbreak in the weeks leading up to Wednesday was just as breathless. Indeed, some of the panic in the stock market and the government can be blamed on the end-of-the-world hysteria that the press has been whipping up for some time now.
The day before the WHO’s declaration of a pandemic, for example, CNN posted a story calling the coronavirus outbreak “unprecedented in modern times.”
Unprecedented? Really? Do CNN’s reporters and editors not know about the flu pandemic of 1918? Or even the swine flu pandemic of 2009?
Although everyone seems to have forgotten the swine flu was even a thing, it infected nearly 61 million people in the U.S. from spring 2009 through early 2010. And it claimed as many as 18,000 lives, according to a Centers for Disease Control study published in 2011. In total, the disease is now believed to have caused more than 200,000 deaths worldwide.
(As of this writing, confirmed cases of coronavirus in the U.S. are a little over 1,700, with 40 deaths attributed to the virus. Worldwide, confirmed cases number fewer than 130,000 and just over 4,700 people have died.)
The swine flu was a serious enough outbreak for President Barack Obama to declare a public health emergency in late April 2009. The WHO declared it a pandemic in early July – at which time 18,000 Americans had contracted the novel flu virus and 44 had died. And unlike coronavirus, the swine flu was more deadly to younger people. Obama declared a national emergency when the virus reemerged with a vengeance in the fall.
Yet the press barely covered any of these events.
When the WHO declared the swine flu “unstoppable” on June 11, 2009, CNN didn’t even lead with that story on its homepage. It was in a pile of links on the side of the page. (See the screenshot of that day’s home page below, taken from the Internet Archive.)
A week later, there was no mention of the swine flu anywhere on CNN’s home page.
The WHO’s announcement rated only a photo on the New York Times’s front page, with a story that was buried on page A11.
When Obama declared a national emergency, CNN didn’t get around to mentioning the death toll of the disease until the 10th paragraph. By that point, millions had been infected and 1,000 people in the U.S. had died.
The day after Obama’s declaration, CNN carried only a single link to the swine flu story in its “Newspulse” section. It ranked below the headline: “Wayward flight’s co-pilot denies arguing.”
The Times’ story about Obama’s declaration didn’t mention the death toll in the U.S. until the fourth paragraph. Two days later, the swine flu was off the Times’ front page again.
We’re not saying that the coronavirus isn’t serious. It’s a new disease with an as-yet-unknown trajectory and a seemingly high fatality rate. So caution is warranted.
But it should be obvious to anyone that the scale and intensity of the coronavirus coverage is far beyond the actual risk posed by the disease. Even if coronavirus is twice as deadly as the swine flu pandemic, more people will die from falling down this year than from COVID-19.
More likely, the Trump-hating leftist media are hoping – consciously or not – that a health panic will do what the Russia investigation and the impeachment failed to. Namely, drive Trump out of office.
How else do you explain the vast difference in the way they’ve treated these two deadly pandemics?
— Written by John Merline