Friday, October 23, 2020

NYT Reporter on the Current Controls at CDC: Sad and Scary

At a session at the September Society of Professional Journalists’ meeting, long-time New York Times science reporter Donald G. McNeil, Jr. said:

“I have never seen the CDC so paralyzed in 20 years of covering them. And it is sad and scary.

“Even under the Obama Administration they had to clear anything important through HHS. But now, I mean, I have never seen it like this, where they don’t hold a press conference in order to announce a major change they are making in guidelines. They sort of slip it onto the website without telling anybody. And it comes to our attention on the quiet.

“And then when we ask for an explanation of: ‘Why are you using .60 infection fatality rate or why did you change the guideline about who should be tested, they don’t want to answer the questions. So if you don’t talk to people off the record, you don’t talk to anyone because nobody is being allowed to say anything on the record unless it has be cleared through [Health and Human Services Secretary] Alex Azar’s office, if you are talking basically about HHS or CDC. Or through the White House. So, it is a horrible experience for a journalist trying to get life -saving information out of your own government.”

From KF: The question I have is why we, journalists, allowed ourselves to be put in the situation where we got only controlled conversations--in the Obama administration and before? Why did we not oppose the restraints or warn the public? 

Indeed, why wouldn't an institution that controlled public scrutiny of itself become a danger to the public? Why wouldn't what we don't know because the omnipresent PIOs be hazardous?

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