Every time I think that there are no more new lows, another one shows up.
That was the case with a “viral video” (and anything that’s a viral video ought to be distrusted on principle) from a nurse in South Dakota claiming that conservative patients were denying of the coronavirus while denying that it was happening to them and attacking Biden. The video was vile and implausible. And the media, inevitably, jumped all over to promote it. So did the usual influencers and Democrat politicians. Now an implausible act of journalism occured in… Wired.
David Zweig at Wired has offered professional common sense reporting and analysis on the pandemic before. That’s extraordinary for a magazine that used to be associated with the hipster digital revolution before becoming a tedious rolodex of lefty narratives.
What’s striking, first of all, is that Zweig did the basic journalistic due dilligence that nobody in the media bothers with anymore. And that’s what his article highlights.
I called a number of hospitals in the same part of South Dakota to ask emergency room nurses if they’d noticed the same, disturbing phenomenon. At Avera Weskota Memorial Hospital, about 20 minutes from Doering’s hometown of Woonsocket, an ER nurse told me, “I have not had that experience here.” At my request, Kim Rieger, the VP for communications and marketing at Huron Regional Medical Center, one of the four medical facilities where Doering works, spoke with several nurses at Huron to get their reactions to the CNN interview. None said they’d interacted with Covid patients who denied having the disease. “Most patients are grateful, and thankful for our help,” one told her. “I have not experienced this, nor have I been told of this experience, ever,” another said.
Then he actually checked the facility’s numbers
Perhaps it’s worth considering that Huron Regional Medical Center has seen a total of six Covid-19 deaths to date. Beadle County, where Huron is located, has registered a total of 22 such deaths, 13 of which occurred since August 1. And in Sanborn County, where Doering lives, there’s been one Covid-19 death.
Notably, no one in the media even bothered with such basic checks.
Alisyn Camerota, the CNN anchor who conducted the interview, is an Emmy Award–winning journalist. Tracy Connor, who covered the story for the Daily Beast, is that publication’s executive editor. They and others simply repeated Doering’s anecdotes, framed as an astounding embodiment of red-state denialism. The Washington Post article quotes at length from Doering’s tweets and TV interview, and claims—without providing any further evidence
That’s commonplace in the media where writing up viral video content is treated as news. Especially when it carries the right narrative.
Fact checks are just something media outlets deploy against conservatives. Meanwhile the type of story that something like Snopes was in theory designed to catch never gets touched by it.
What Zweig’s follow-up really reveals is how the media no longer even bothers with any of the basic formalities of journalism. The media wants to claim that its professional organizations have the truth because they follow the precepts of journalism. But their organization function exactly like the social media influencers they decry, sponging up viral content, and serving it up for clicks without checking it out.
Meanwhile Jodi Doering’s viral video was used by the media to warn about President Trump’s misinformation. The real misinformation though comes from the media.