STUDY: TV Paused Its Pandemic Panic to Push Protests


For almost three months, from early March to late Might, the coronavirus pandemic eclipsed all different information tales, consuming almost the entire airtime on the Large Three (ABC, CBS and NBC) night newscasts. However for 2 weeks in late Might and early June, those self same networks put the virus story on the again burner whereas they diverted almost all of their protection to nationwide protests in opposition to police brutality.

And now that the protests have subsided, TV information is as soon as once more ramping up its coronavirus protection. But these newscasts’ revived sense of urgency is undermined by their two-week late spring break from the pandemic.

Media Analysis Middle analysts reviewed all broadcast night information protection of the coronavirus outbreak for 5 months (together with weekends), from the primary reviews on January 17 via June 16.

Protection unfolded in 4 distinct phases: From January 17 via March 8, the coronavirus was given regular protection alongside the opposite information of the day. A lot of this protection centered on developments in overseas nations (China, then Italy), or affecting People on cruise ships. In a 52-day interval, the night newscasts generated 570 minutes of protection, or roughly 11 minutes per night time (all three newscasts mixed).

Beginning March 9, nevertheless, the virus story took over the newscasts, eclipsing almost all the pieces else. From March 9 via Might 28, these networks pumped out 3,896 minutes of coronavirus information, or about 48 minutes per night time (roughly 88% of all obtainable airtime, excluding commercials and teases). This contains all sides of the story: the scenario in main cities; the financial harm; and provoking tales of people who beat the virus.

This heavy protection despatched the not-so-subtle sign that the coronavirus was an emergency scenario, requiring the total consideration of the general public in addition to authorities officers in any respect ranges.

Then got here the protests — apparent information which plainly deserved a share of night information airtime. However for 2 weeks (from Might 29 via June 11), the networks did what they hadn’t accomplished for months: put the virus story on maintain. Over these 14 days, ABC, CBS and NBC collectively produced 137 minutes of coronavirus protection, about 10 minutes per night time. That’s a 79% drop in airtime from the March-Might common, and even lower than what they have been producing throughout the earliest days of the pandemic.

The low level got here on June 4, the three night newscasts mixed aired lower than two and a half minutes of coronavirus information, the smallest whole since January 19 (95 seconds), when each CBS and NBC have been pre-empted on the East Coast for reside sports activities (keep in mind that?). The brand new sign: racism and police misconduct now require all of our consideration, and the virus can wait for one more day.

NBC correspondent Blayne Alexander basically mentioned as a lot in a Might 29 report for Nightly Information: “Gathering within the midst of a pandemic, protesters say they’re now compelled to combat a special virus: racism.” 4 days later, ABC’s David Muir enthused over New York Metropolis hospital staff displaying solidarity with the protesters, even studying from an indication: “Racism is a public well being emergency.”

But the virus took no hiatus throughout any of this. From Might 29 via June 11, there have been greater than 300,000 newly-confirmed circumstances of the coronavirus in the USA, and greater than 12,400 deaths, in response to statistics compiled because the begin of the pandemic by Worldometers.com.

The networks started their post-protest part of protection on June 12, rapidly doubling the typical nightly airtime dedicated to the pandemic to greater than 20 minutes per night time. This new part of protection contains warnings of rising circumstances in lots of U.S. states, and of as many as 200,000 deaths by the autumn.

But when the networks start clamoring for extra punitive lockdowns, audiences will keep in mind that the media themselves determined that virus issues may very well be put aside for a two-week protest.



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