March 27, 2020

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Good morning. Welcome to the end of another surreal week.

It is the end of the week, right? The days are running together. It’s hard to keep track with so many people working from home and so many lives turned upside down because of the coronavirus.

Hopefully, The Poynter Report has been a valuable resource for you during these uncertain times. But I would love to hear from you. To journalists and news consumers, let me know about the work you’re seeing out there that’s especially good during this critical time, especially at the local level. And let me know your thoughts on what kind of journalism and stories you want to see more of.

Today, I start with an excellent interview from an unlikely source.

The best coronavirus interview Thursday might surprise you

The best information about the coronavirus Thursday just might have come from NBA star Steph Curry’s Instagram Q&A with Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Part of the reason the White House task force reached out to Curry was the hope that he could reach his mostly younger audience and stress just how serious this pandemic is.

But the Q&A was insightful for everyone. While journalists have done an incredible job, sometimes it’s good to get a fresh voice to, once again, hit the reset button and ask the most basic questions to get the answers everyone wants to know — and might be afraid to ask.

Fauci started with a warning for those who still might not be taking this seriously.

“This is serious business, we are not overreacting,” Fauci told Curry. “I’d like to get the people in the country to realize that we’re dealing with a serious problem.”

Curry’s interview skills were solid, and he asked the one question that’s on everyone’s mind: When is this thing going to end so we can get back to things like Curry’s specialty — sports?

“The United States is a big country,” Fauci said. “We have so many different regions — like New York City right now is having a terrible time, and yet there are places in the country that are really doing quite well. … So a direct answer to your question, we can start to think about getting back to some degree of normality when the country as a whole has turned that corner and starts coming down.”

Showing the type of responsibility we all need, Fauci would not give an exact date or timeframe. If you look close, however, he did give a specific answer.

Curry also asked another question that we needed to hear again, especially because of those suggesting that the typical influenza is worse than COVID-19. Curry simply asked what the difference was.

Fauci said the two both cause respiratory issues and are transmitted similarly. But then he said, “The reason it’s different is that (COVID-19 is) very, very much more transmissible than the flu and, more importantly, it’s significantly more serious.”

Fauci quoted numbers saying the death rate of the regular flu is about 0.1%. For COVID-19, the overall fatality rate is about 1% and, at times in China, up to 2-3%.

“Which means it’s at least 10 times more serious than the typical influenza,” Fauci said.

It was an interview with informative answers set up by simple, yet thoughtful questions.

Speaking of Fauci, did you know there are Fauci donuts? I’m not making that up. Check it out here.

Most chilling story

If you haven’t seen it, go right now to this New York Times piece that includes a sobering video inside a hospital emergency room in Queens and a photo of a refrigerated truck stationed outside to hold the bodies of the dead.

“It’s apocalyptic,” Dr. Ashley Bray, a general medicine resident at Elmhurst Hospital Center, told the Times.

Dr. Colleen Smith, the emergency room doctor who shot the video, at one point looks into her camera and says, “I don’t have the support that I need and even just the materials that I need physically to take care of my patients. And it’s America, and we’re supposed to be a first-world country.”

Who are people listening to?

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Who are the most trusted voices when it comes to the coronavirus? According to a Business Insider poll, it’s infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Asked to rate politicians, experts and officials on a scale of one to five with five being the most trustworthy, Fauci and Cuomo both scored well. Fauci had an average of 3.84, with 40% giving him a five. Cuomo averaged 3.29, with 22% giving him a five.

President Donald Trump averaged 2.56, with 44% giving him a one, compared to 20% who gave him a five. Vice President Mike Pence averaged 2.64 and Dr. Deborah Birx, the response coordinator of the coronavirus task force, got a 3.14.

The lowest score went to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who averaged 2.52.

Just the facts

Know who you should be listening to? Poynter’s PolitiFact, which is hard at work cutting through the politics, promises and proclamations to give you the straight talk on coronavirus. My favorite thing Thursday — and, perhaps, the most important thing you need this second — is Daniel Funke fact-checking COVID-19 prevention and cure myths.

Strange tweet of the day

While most journalists are out there practicing journalism, Fox News’ Brit Hume took some time out Thursday to practice politics.

He took to Twitter to call out one of Joe Biden’s advisors. Ron Klain — who was the chief of staff for vice presidents Biden and Al Gore and served as the Ebola czar during the 2014-2015 outbreak — has been a frequent critic of President Trump’s response to coronavirus. But Hume retweeted a thread by a right-winger claiming Klain has made inconsistent comments about the coronavirus.

Hume tweeted, “Good thread on the oft-quoted Biden Coronavirus adviser who’s repeatedly criticized POTUS. Listen to what he was saying during much of this.”

The two then had an exchange on Twitter, arguing about Klain’s past statements.

Hume is certainly allowed to tweet whatever he likes, but he’s often considered one of Fox News’ more level-headed and objective journalists. Tweets like this one — and another profane tweet ripping into NBC’s Peter Alexander last week — put a dent in that reputation. It’s one thing for Sean Hannity or Laura Ingraham to play such politics, but it’s unusual (although less so these days) for Hume to do it.

Pressing news

I’ll continue to use this space to lead you to particularly excellent news coverage of the coronavirus. Today, I thought I would mention a news outlet we often take for granted, but does superb work: the Associated Press.

The AP’s website pulls together critical stories at both the national and local level, showing how the virus is impacting the country — from the Oval Office all the way to your home office. Especially useful when you wake up is AP’s daily update of “What you need to know today.” In addition, AP’s Ralph Russo is hosting an occasional podcast called “Ground Game: Inside the Outbreak.”

Record numbers

I wasn’t a fan of Fox News’ virtual town hall Tuesday with President Donald Trump and the White House coronavirus task force, mostly because of main moderator Bill Hemmer’s softball questions and feeble follow-ups. But a lot of people tuned in. In fact, the 4.409 million viewers were a record for cable news town halls.

Distraction listening

The Atlantic’s Jemele Hill, who will co-host a new podcast about the HBO show “The Wire.” (Donald Traill/Invision/AP)

I’ve always been a big Bill Simmons fan, and I’ve found that he and his “The Ringer” podcast network have been a great distraction at the end of these stressful days. I’m especially a fan of “The Bill Simmons” podcast, which is heavy on sports with some pop culture and everyday life mixed in. “The Ringer” also offers a slew of great other pods, including media podcast “The Press Box” and “The Rewatchables,” a highly-entertaining look back at various movies, mostly since the 1980s.

Now get ready for another that will review one of the greatest TV shows of all-time: HBO’s “The Wire.” The pod, to be called “The Wire: Way Down in the Hole,” will be hosted by The Ringer’s Van Lathan and The Atlantic’s Jemele Hill and will go over each and every episode of “The Wire.” The podcast will debut in April and is expected to have 65 episodes.

Both the show, which aired from 2002 to 2008, and the podcast seem perfect for those staying in and looking for an escape from the news during the coronavirus crisis.

Sports without sports

Working from home during the coronavirus pandemic, I flip back-and-forth between cable news stations (CNN, Fox News, MSNBC) and sports networks (mostly the ESPN stations) just to find a quick escape from the grim news of COVID-19.

Thursday was supposed to be baseball’s Opening Day. We should be in the middle of March Madness. The NBA and NHL seasons should be gearing up for the playoffs, and the Masters should be right around the corner.

But all of those things, in addition to the 2020 Summer Olympics, are on hold with no timetable for when they will return. So ESPN has spent its days constantly debating National Football League transactions, most notably Tom Brady leaving the New England Patriots. At night, the network shows old documentaries, including the incredible “O.J.: Made in America” documentary about O.J. Simpson’s life, career and murder trial.

On Thursday, ESPN announced it would add Disney-owned sports movies to its Friday night schedule, including “The Rookie,” “Glory Road,” “Invincible,” “Miracle,” “Secretariat” and “The Greatest Game Ever Played.”

What’s especially interesting, however, is networks such as ABC, CBS and NBC re-airing old games on the weekend. Is there really an audience for that? Actually, sports fans don’t have much of a choice these days if they want a game fix.

“The old games still lack the power of new ones,” Brian Steinberg wrote in Variety. “But until a day comes when the leagues can start up again, the networks will have to bet that nostalgia can keep people paying attention.”

Sports’ best

NBA analyst Charles Barkley (Dennis Van Tine/STAR MAX)

The 41st Sports Emmy nominations were announced Thursday. ESPN led all nominations with 58, followed by Fox with 48 and NBC Sports Group with 24.

Some of the highlights include:

  • Outstanding weekly studio show: College GameDay (ESPN), Football Night in America (NBC), Fox NFL Sunday (Fox), Fox NFL Thursday (Fox), Inside the NBA (TNT).
  • Outstanding daily studio show: The Dan Patrick Show (B/R Live/DirecTV), MLB Tonight (MLB Network), NHL Live (NBC/NBCSN), Outside the Lines (ESPN), Pardon the Interruption (ESPN), SportsCenter (ESPN).
  • Best studio host: James Brown (Showtime, CBS), Ernie Johnson (TNT), Brian Kenny (MLB Network), Mike Tirico (NBC), Scott Van Pelt (ESPN).
  • Best studio analyst: Charles Barkley (TNT), Bill Belichick (NFL Network), Jay Bilas (ESPN), Al Leiter (MLB Network), Kenny Smith (TNT), Michael Strahan (Fox).
  • Best play-by-play announcer: Kenny Albert (Fox, NBC), Mike Breen (ABC), Mike Emrick (NBC), Al Michaels (NBC), Jim Nantz (CBS)
  • Best game analyst: Troy Aikman (Fox), Cris Collinsworth (NBC), Kirk Herbstreit (ABC, ESPN), Tony Romo (CBS), John Smoltz (Fox, MLB Network).

The ceremony announcing the winners was supposed to be April 28 in New York, but that obviously has been put on hold.

Hot type

CORRECTION: In an earlier version, the name of Brian Kenny was misspelled. I’m sorry for the error.

Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at

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Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
Tom Jones

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