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A Tale Of Two Pandemics: Media Downplayed Swine Flu Outbreak Under Obama


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The potential impact of the coronavirus might still be unknown, but the media hype is already plain as day. Particularly when you compare how they are covering this pandemic with the last one, which happened to occur when Barack Obama was in the White House.

To get a sense of the differences in how the press treated these two outbreaks of brand new viruses, let’s look at how the New York Times and CNN – the bellwethers of mainstream journalism in print and on TV – covered each at similar points in the outbreak.

The day after the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a pandemic, and President Donald Trump gave a national address, CNN’s front page was almost entirely devoted to coronavirus.

On the newsstands, two-thirds of the New York Times’ front page was devoted to coronavirus stories.

Obviously, a new disease that is spreading across the country is a big story, as is the WHO’s declaration that it’s now a pandemic. Add in a White House address in which Trump declares a travel ban, widespread school closures, cancellations of events, including suspension of the NBA season, and a stock market crash, and it’s huge news.

But the media coverage of the outbreak in the weeks leading up to Wednesday was just as breathless. Indeed, some of the panic in the stock market and the government can be blamed on the end-of-the-world hysteria that the press has been whipping up for some time now.

The day before the WHO’s declaration of a pandemic, for example, CNN posted a story calling the coronavirus outbreak “unprecedented in modern times.”:snip:

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