Journalists are skipping Trump's daily coronavirus press briefings, saying they don't have enough news value

tporter@businessinsider.com (Tom Porter)
  • There have been rows of empty seats in recent coronavirus briefings by President Donald Trump.

Reporters are skipping President Donald Trump's daily coronavirus news briefings, and TV networks are increasingly choosing not to broadcast them live, because they believe they don't have enough news value to risk breaking social-distancing rules.

In recent days there have been scores of empty seats in the White House press-briefing room, where Trump has delivered updates on the US battle against the novel coronavirus alongside public-health officials.

But instead of delivering key information and sober assessments of the situation to the American public, Trump has frequently resorted to tactics more familiar from his raucous campaign rallies: boasting of his accomplishments, floating misinformation, attacking the press, and taunting Democrats — with Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York a favored target.

According to The Washington Post, reporters are now "keeping their distance because they are concerned about the health risks at a time when many consider the president's evening news conferences to have become increasingly less newsworthy."

Trump with Vice President Mike Pence and the infectious-disease expert Anthony Fauci at the March 20 coronavirus press briefing.
Trump with Vice President Mike Pence and the infectious-disease expert Anthony Fauci at the March 20 coronavirus press briefing.

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

After two White House correspondents were recently suspected of having the virus, top media outlets including The Post, The New York Times, and CNBC stopped sending veteran correspondents to cover the briefings, The Post reported.

"Nowadays, it seems they make little news," The Times' executive editor, Dean Baquet, told The Post. "We, of course, reserve the right to show them live [via web streaming] if we believe they will actually make news. But that hasn't happened in quite some time."

'The information no longer appeared to be valuable to the important ongoing discussion around public health'

Cable networks have also skipped Trump's briefings. For more than a week, networks including CNN and MSNBC have been cutting away from Trump's briefings — or not showing them at all. 

In response to criticism from the White House last week for not showing the president's briefing in full, MSNBC told The Hill in a statement that it wasn't broadcasting the full briefing "because the information no longer appeared to be valuable to the important ongoing discussion around public health."

During his press briefings, Trump has fielded questions and directed attacks at reporters from TV networks, including PBS' Yamiche Alcindor, whose probing questions frequently provoked the president's ire.

Trump abruptly changed his tone on the coronavirus this week.

On Sunday, he announced that US lockdown measures would be extended until April 30, and on Tuesday he unveiled new projections suggesting up to 240,000 Americans could die from COVID-19 even with strict measures to fight it.

But he has also continued to use briefings in recent days to attack reporters, solicit praise, and spread claims about unproven cures.

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