One of the best podcasts out there right now is the Ezra Klein Show, particularly if you love getting lost in a deep, thought-provoking discussion on issues like political polarization or social media-driven anxiety. He’s even had some episodes on things like loneliness and how to be persuasive that are excellent.
One of Klein’s most recent episodes fits that bill, too. He welcomed New York Times reporter Charlie Warzel to talk about how the media has covered the coronavirus, which is widely seen as problematic. Particularly in the US, reporters wrote articles in January that downplayed the risk of the virus, and then published countless stories pushing the foolish belief that wearing masks doesn’t offer any protection (which, if true, raises questions over why doctors and nurses wear them in emergency wards and the ICU).
The big question is why? How did journalists get it so wrong, what role do healthcare “experts” play, and what can be done about it?
The questions raised in this interview are hard, and go to one of the trickiest issues in journalism: How does a profession that prides itself on reporting truth cover the world probabilistically? What do we do when we simply can’t know what’s true, and when some of what we think we know might become untrue?
This is one of the most open and honest critiques of news coverage I’ve heard, particularly as any admission of failure by journalists is often construed by conspiracy theorists as proof the media should never be trusted, ever. (An idea addressed directly on the show).
The discussion doesn’t provide too many answers, but talking about these thorny and uncomfortable issues is important and the first step towards trying to fix them.
You can listen to the show below, or by visiting the Ezra Klein Show.