Bob McKinney

For a while, President Donald Trump held daily news briefings about the coronavirus outbreak, always bringing with him Vice President Pence, as well as medical experts who are part of the coronavirus task force and others who have a role in managing the country’s handling of all things COVID-19.

But he eventually tired of all the questioning and started canceling some of the briefings. Why should he spend his time holding them, he asked, when the reporters don’t report things accurately?

Gov. Bill Lee and Nashville’s Mayor John Cooper continue to hold daily press conferences about COVID-19.

I’m sure all three of these officials — Trump, Lee and Cooper — grow weary of the questions. It is clear some of the reporters do not listen and simply bide their time until allowed to speak.

It is also quite clear some of the reporters at the White House briefings have no other purpose than to cross-examine the president and find a contradiction with something he might have previously said. They care much less about the pandemic than about exposing some supposed deficiency of the president.

At Cooper’s briefings, there is a reporter from one of the local TV stations who repeatedly asks questions that have already been answered. She has also repeatedly said she simply must have a date certain as to when Nashville will begin to “reopen” because people are asking her.

As if, suddenly, the mayor might drop his guard and give previously undisclosed information.

It’s tiresome and it’s a waste of time — for her, for the mayor and his team members and all who are listening.

President Trump, of course, chooses to go toe-to-toe with reporters who ask inane questions and also the questions he simply doesn’t like. He’ll tell one he’s a terrible reporter or another she’s asking a ridiculous question. If they happen to be from a news organization he doesn’t like, he’ll throw in something about that too.

It would be easier, and less uncomfortable, if he would simply acknowledge the question and move on. And maybe if he did that, the number of silly questions would fall off.

If you look closely, you’ll see in Lee’s or Cooper’s eyes their fatigue with the questions, especially the repeated ones about matters about which they have just spoken. Lord knows they’re human, and impatience on their part would be understandable.

But for the most part they, unlike the president, keep their cool, answer a question — or explain why they can’t — and move along.

They seem to have come to peace with the fact that the questions from the press, even the silly ones, come with the territory.

And we, as a citizenry, are well served by that.

Digesting the news

Nearly two years ago I wrote a column about the news media, explaining how news stories, editorials and opinion columns differ from each other.

I wrote it because I am a staunch defender of freedom of the press. I had grown tired of hearing people criticize “the media” or “mainstream media” in general.  

Much of this had been fueled by Trump’s introduction of the term “fake news.”

I received more emails on that piece than any I have ever written in this space. As I recall, they were mostly from folks in my age group who, like me, could remember the days of three television networks, each of which offered an evening news broadcast.

Many also recalled a local or statewide newspaper, depending on where he or she might have grown up. They told me they missed the days when news was presented in a more straightforward manner.

As I explained in that column, things are drastically different now, with the cable networks and internet news sources, not to mention social media. The lines between editorial comments and the communication of news are routinely blurred.

It has never been more prominent than with the coronavirus pandemic.

And it has never been as important that we, as citizens, think critically and consider the sources from which we receive news about this subject.

You know there are networks that have an agenda. If you agree with their agenda and you want to hear what you want to hear, then you know where to tune in.

But if you want straight, objective reporting of the news, that’s a bit tricky. I continue with that quest.

Bob McKinney is a longtime Brentwood resident, happy husband and proud father, father-in-law and grandfather. Email him ta bmac1018@yahoo.com.

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