Facts, not politics. Numbers, not opinions. Science, not guesses.
In these confusing times of COVID-19 misinformation, disingenuous politicians who care more about future elections than their constituents and people who would rather listen to friends than actual scientists, it’s important for news organizations to come hard with facts.
That’s why this tweet from CNN anchor and correspondent Ana Cabrera jumped out to me on Monday: “More than 99.99% of fully vaccinated people have not had a severe breakthrough case of Covid-19, according to a CNN analysis of CDC data as of August 2nd.”
Read that again — 99.99%.
Here’s more. CNN’s Deidre McPhillips writes, “As of Aug. 2, more than 164 million people in the United States were fully vaccinated against Covid-19, according to the CDC. Fewer than 0.001% of those individuals — 1,507 people — died and fewer than 0.005% — 7,101 people — were hospitalized with Covid-19. … About three-quarters (74%) of all reported breakthrough cases were among seniors age 65 or older. Of the roughly 1,500 people who died, one in five passed away from something other than Covid-19 even though they had a breakthrough case of the virus, according to the CDC.”
These are the kinds of fact-based stories that need to be publicized to show the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccinations. These are the kinds of numbers-based stories that news outlets need to publish to inform their audiences.
Give audiences the details and be sure to put them in proper context. Don’t just list the number of cases or hospitalizations or deaths. Include all the numbers, such as percentages, to see how Americans are being impacted, and how best to combat this pandemic.
This isn’t about painting rainbows or, conversely, seeing glasses as half-empty. This is about giving audiences facts, giving them numbers.
And here are more numbers, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (via CNN):
Number of fully vaccinated: 50.2% of the total US population (all ages).
Not vaccinated: 31.2% of the eligible population (12+).
Current pace of vaccinations (7-day average): 486,332 people are initiating vaccination each day.
All these numbers help us trust the scientists and medical experts, as opposed to politicians and our high school buddies who rant and rave on Facebook. As Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, told CNN, “It’s a medical and public health challenge, and politicians should really let the public health and physician leaders move forward on how to get this thing under control.”
Jha added, “For any other disease, you would not turn to your political leader for medical advice, right? If you had cancer or if you had a heart attack, you wouldn’t call up your congressman or woman and say, ‘What’s the right therapy I should get?’ You should be talking to your doctor. You should be talking to your healthcare provider.”
And media outlets should be relying on such sources for their stories.
Facts. Numbers. Medical experts. Science.
That’s what news organizations should be highlighting.
Must-read story of the day
I’ve been writing this newsletter for more than two and a half years and have recommended hundreds upon hundreds — maybe thousands — of stories for you to read/watch/listen to. I cannot think of many I would recommend more than a new piece in The Atlantic by Jennifer Senior.
The story — “WHAT BOBBY MCILVAINE LEFT BEHIND” — is an incredibly well-written, richly reported story about a young man killed in the 9/11 attacks and the lifelong impact it has had on his parents and the woman he had planned on marrying.
Senior not only beautifully and, at times, painfully tells the intimate story of grieving, but also reveals her deep personal questions that elicit exceptionally honest responses.
It’s a stunning piece of writing and story that will stay with you long after you’ve read it. Truly powerful. I would reveal more details about the story, but it’s best if you set aside some time in a quiet place and just start reading.
Here’s a Twitter thread from Senior about the story.
The Atlantic’s good year
Speaking of The Atlantic, its paid readership increased by more than 280,000 over the past year, according to the latest circulation statement filed with the Alliance for Audited Media. The Atlantic’s total circulation through the first half of 2021 is 833,410. This represents print and digital subscribers and newsstand sales.
In a note to staff, editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg and CEO Nicholas Thompson said, “Everyone at The Atlantic has played a role in building and growing our paying audience. We hope you feel great pride in the work we’ve accomplished together. Onward.”
NBCUniversal put out its TV numbers for the Tokyo Olympics. No surprise that viewership was down. The Total Audience Delivery was 15.5 million prime-time viewers. Compare that to the Rio Games (25.4 million) and London (31.1 million). But also as expected, streaming numbers were way up.
Overall, NBC said, 150 million Americans watched the network’s coverage. And while the numbers may be down overall, it still was the most-watched thing on TV the past two weeks and was great programming for prime time, shows such as the “Today” show, as well as Peacock — NBC’s streaming service. NBC said viewers streamed more than 5.5 billion minutes.
Fun fact: The Olympics have ranked No. 1 in prime time for 135 consecutive Summer Olympic nights.
In a statement, Pete Bevacqua, chairman of NBC Sports, said, “There is nothing more powerful in media than the 17 straight days of Olympics dominance. Despite being thrown a series of curveballs over the last 18 months, the power of the Olympics delivered to audiences across the various platforms of NBCU has proven itself unequaled. The pandemic fundamentally altered virtually every aspect of these Games, but our team pivoted, and reimagined, in the midst of showcasing history-making performances across 41 sports. Once again, we have seen the unparalleled power that these Games have on media and our culture.”
In an opinion piece for The Hill, Juan Williams — a former panelist on Fox News’ “The Five” and still a political analyst for Fox News — blasted former President Donald Trump, saying he and his “disciples” are putting the “con” in modern conservatism.
Williams goes after Trump and his fundraising tactics, as well as Republican members of Congress such as Georgia’s Marjorie Taylor Greene, Colorado’s Lauren Boebert and North Carolina’s Madison Cawthorn.
Williams writes, “Trump’s grifting game is also being mimicked by powerful, well-funded conservative donor networks.” That game includes repeating baseless claims of election fraud.
To which Williams writes, “And when they fail to find any fraud, these dark-money organizations then tell donors they need more cash for more probes in search of fraud. They never find any and so they ask again. It is a never-ending pitch.”
A scary report
A Mexican TV news anchor has received a death threat over her coverage of a powerful drug cartel. In a video, masked men claiming to represent Ruben Oseguera Cervantes — aka “El Mencho,” leader of the Jalisco New Generation cartel — threatened Milenio Television and anchor Azucena Uresti for what they think is unfair coverage. The Associated Press has more on the story.
Unfortunately, threatening journalists is not uncommon in Mexico. As the AP notes, the Committee to Protect Journalists considers Mexico the deadliest country in the Western Hemisphere for journalists. Mexican presidential spokesperson Jesús Ramírez Cuevas tweeted the government will “take appropriate measures to protect threatened journalists and media. Democratic freedoms are guaranteed along with the right to information for citizens.”
- Margaret Sullivan’s latest column in The Washington Post looks at the Gov. Andrew Cuomo coverage in “Albany’s newspaper has covered Gov. Cuomo’s sexual misconduct admirably. Chris Cuomo and CNN have blown it.”
- Sullivan’s column was just a warmup. Check out the Post’s Erik Wemple, who crushes CNN with “CNN must investigate Chris Cuomo.”
- Speaking of Cuomo, the governor’s top aide, Melissa DeRosa, resigned late Sunday night. As The New York Times’ Luis Ferré-Sadurní notes, “Her resignation meant that Mr. Cuomo … lost one of his most loyal aides and trusted strategists while facing an imminent threat of impeachment in the State Legislature and calls to step down from a constellation of top officials in his party, including President Biden and the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi.”
- And one more resignation connected to Cuomo. The Associated Press’ Marina Villeneuve with “Time’s Up leader resigns after criticism about Cuomo ties.”
- For The New York Times, William J. Broad with “How a Star Times Reporter Got Paid by Government Agencies He Covered.”
- New York Post sports columnist Andrew Marchand reports, “MLB, Barstool Sports in significant talks to broadcast games.”
- Mike Lange — who has been broadcasting Pittsburgh Penguins games for 45 of the past 46 years — announced his retirement from play-by-play duties on Monday. Lange is known for his catchphrases such as “She wants to sell my money,” “Scratch my back with a hacksaw” and “Buy Sam a drink and get his dog one, too.” In fact, here’s a fun video of Lange’s best-known catchphrases.
If you enjoy The Poynter Report, I have something else from Poynter that might interest you. It’s a new newsletter debuting this week called “Open Tabs.” Each Friday, Poynter managing editor Ren LaForme will suggest three Poynter stories you should read before finishing your workweek. It might include stories on Poynter.org, or from Poynter’s PolitiFact or MediaWise or the IFCN. Plus, Ren will share behind-the-scenes details about how the stories came together. Here’s how to subscribe.
- For MarketWatch, Lukas I. Alpert with “Bernie Madoff’s harrowing final days: hallucinations, dire medical conditions, and waiting for the end to come.”
- A couple of days old now, but in case you missed it, a really outstanding guest essay in The New York Times from author Sarah Smarsh: “What to Do With Our Covid Rage.”
- In an opinion piece for USA Today, Erin Smith, the widow of the Washington Metropolitan Police Department officer Jeffrey Smith, writes “My husband’s suicide after Jan. 6 riots was a line-of-duty death. He deserves recognition.”
- Finally, let’s end on a happy note today. From the always-entertaining Twitter account of former NBA and college basketball star Rex Chapman: Here are three bears on a golf course. It’s the most joyous thing you’ll see all day.
Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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