Monday, December 07, 2020

Pictures Talk; Words Walk. I Didn't Make The Rules.

MSNBC host Stephanie Ruhle revealed Monday morning that she and her family have contracted Covid-19. Striking the right tone, in a piece on the network's website she acknowledges they have been "extremely lucky" and

I was privileged enough to be able to manage those fears, with doctors answering my frantic phone calls and messages. And I work for a company that let me put my life on hold and focus on my health....

We didn't get super sick. We had access to testing, eventually got some results and had the space and the financial stability to isolate safely. We have supportive paying jobs and schools that can offer virtual learning. If I didn't have all of that, maybe it would have been a lot harder to follow the guidelines.

Others are not so fortunate, she notes, because

Across the country, Americans have raised the alarm for months about our haphazard testing and muddled guidelines. And the guidelines have shifted since the pandemic started. Is it any wonder that this spread continues? We're all confused. I still don't know where we got Covid-19.

And forget about contact tracing calls; making them was insanely difficult. So many of the people I might have exposed didn't want to hear it. The people I came in contact with and the big-box stores I spent time in seemed to have no interest in when I might have exposed them. None of the stores took my temperature, but even if they had done so, it wouldn't have made a difference — I had no fever.

On her MSNBC program, Ruhle also struck the right note and addressed the vital issues.  She spoke and wrote eloquently with humility rare in cable news (insufficiently common elsewhere), eschewing any phony reference to "being humbled." There was no false emotion or pathos as she addressed the failure of both government and some individuals to take the pandemic seriously.

However,  she can be seen and heard explaining

As I mentioned at the top of the show, I am now back at work broadcasting safely from home after spending the better part of the last two weeks isolating and recovering from Covid-19.

Given the backdrop, if Ruhle had not mentioned that she was broadcasting from home, viewers would have assumed it was from a well-lit and reasonably appealing studio.  It did not appear that she was sitting in the family's New Jersey house, as she evidently was. or in their Manhattan apartment

This contrasted starkly with the CNN broadcasts in spring from the basement (albeit a well-appointed one) of Chris Cuomo's house on Long Island, NY.  Moreover, in those appearances Cuomo then appeared somewhat gaunt, clearly unhealthy. As she usually does, Ruhle looked healthy and not unattractive.

The latter was right on target with the words and the message, more clearly and modestly than was Cuomo. However, CNN sent the right image visually, accurately reflecting the enormous threat to human health characterizing Covid-19. MSNBC would have better served the public if it had broadcast from somewhere less inviting than the studio, delayed their host's return, or if possible had her appear on camera when she was still in throe of symptoms.

Images count, a lot more than they should, and dangerously so. Ask Lesley Stahl.

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