On Reliable Sources Sunday, CNN’s chief media correspondent Brian Stelter emphasized the unknowns of the Omicron variant — and how the media must adjust its coverage.
“The more unknowns there are the more humble we must be,” Stelter said. “The more careful journalists must be.”
CNN announced overnight it is shutting down its offices for non-essential employees in light of rising cases. The Washington Post reimposed a mask mandate and SNL slimmed down its live show last night.
“All these daily, hourly, even minute by minute headlines about Covid making us feel like we’re heading back in time, when in fact we are not,” Stelter said.
Katherine Wu, a staff writer for The Atlantic, said the US is vastly underprepared for a new variant. It’s an infectious virus she said, and there are warning signs. Even among those vaccinated, elderly and immunocompromised people are at risk.
“We do have to find a middle ground between catastrophizing all post vaccination infections,” Wu said.
Stelter asked if Americans with booster shots will have to “suffer” again.
“We do have to keep in mind that not everyone who’s unvaccinated did make that choice willingly,” Wu said.
Covid in this age is all about risk assessment. One obvious example is children, many of whom are not vaccinated but face little risk from Covid-19, who are dealing with school lockdowns.
“Closing school has been so damaging to children, and not just closing it, but the disruptions to it. And children are at such little risk on an overall basis,” said David Leonhardt, a senior writer at The New York Times.
In this pandemic, more pandemics have been created – such as mental health and physical health, Leonhardt said.
“We have to weigh all of this when saying, ‘What sorts of things are we going to do in order to respond to Covid?’ And unfortunately, every single choice brings health costs to it,” Leonhardt said.
Leonhardt said the media is no monolith, but in this moment, most of the coverage is not overreacting to the threats of the variant.
“Omicron is serious,” Leonhardt said. “And it requires a really nuanced response in which we try to acknowledge the fact that for most boosted people, the risks really remain quite low.”