Coronavirus crisis puts medical experts center stage on cable, network newscasts

The growing coronavirus pandemic has put a newfound emphasis on doctors and medical experts, who have taken a prominent role on cable and network newscasts.

“The modern news industry has never seen a time when medical insight and guidance is as needed or prominent as it is now,” DePauw University professor and media critic Jeffrey McCall told Fox News. "The medical community has really stepped up to shine."

Newscasts have been crammed with segments on everything from proper hand-washing methods to in-depth questions-and-answer segments related to all-things coronavirus. Some programs have hand sanitizer visible on anchor desks and social distancing is becoming more prominent among broadcasters with each passing day. The result has been a variety of medical experts taking over the country's televisions.

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Cornell Law School professor and media critic William A. Jacobson told Fox News “it's extremely important that networks turn to neutral medical and scientific experts” when media and social media are flooded with misinformation and politically motivated scare tactics.

“For the most part, I've been pleased with what I've seen from the medical and science experts on cable news, particularly interviews with Dr. Anthony Fauci," Jacobson said.

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Dr. Anthony Fauci has quickly emerged as a household name, appearing alongside President Trump at Coronavirus Task Force press conferences on a daily basis and becoming the face of the government’s response.

Dr. Fauci pulled the “full Ginsburg” on Sunday, appearing on all five major Sunday morning talk shows – a rare move made famous by Monica Lewinsky’s attorney Williams Ginsburg back in 1998.

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But Dr. Fauci isn’t the only medical expert to see a significant uptick in airtime.

ABC has relied on its chief health and medical editor and chief medical correspondent Jennifer Ashton, while also turning to American Public Health Association executive director Dr. Georges Benjami. ABC also aired a special “20/20” dedicated to the pandemic that featured Dr. Fauci and other experts.

CBS News has used chief medical correspondent Dr. Jonathan LaPook and medical contributor Dr. Tara Narula. CBS’ “60 Minutes” featured a sit down with three courageous health officials from Westchester County, Chevon Jones, Caitlin Doyle-Goldsmith, and Cathy Gomez, who explained the steps they take to treat patients who were exposed to coronavirus.

NBC and MSNBC has leaned on contributors Dr. John Torres, Dr. Natalie Azar, and scientist and virus expert Dr. Joseph Fair with a variety of guests also appearing regularly.

McCall says the “medical experts have been really great” so far.

“I think Americans should be reassured and confident knowing there are so many talented medical professionals available to give us insight into the virus. It has been impressive to see how carefully these experts are explaining the health crisis and how they are putting the matter into context and with understandable language,” McCall told Fox News

“The medical experts have been careful to provide helpful information in a measured way, providing proper cautionary recommendations without an excess of emotion or unnecessary fear. The major networks and cable outlets are properly giving their medical experts plenty of air time and letting them lead the direction of coverage,” McCall added. “This is, indeed, a time when journalists need to let the technical experts guide the news agenda on this topic and that seems to be happening.”

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Fox News’ Dr. Marc Siegel has been a fixture on the network that beefed up its medical coverage with a pair of new contributors, adding to the team that also features Dr. Nicole Saphier and Dr. Manny Alvarez. FNC added emergency medical professional Dr. Janette Nesheiwat as a contributor on Monday to provide analysis about the ongoing crisis, after adding Dr. Martin Makary last week.

ABC has relied on its chief health and medical editor and chief medical correspondent Jennifer Ashton.

ABC has relied on its chief health and medical editor and chief medical correspondent Jennifer Ashton.

Dr. Mehmet Oz has appeared regularly on Fox News as well since the coronavirus pandemic began dominating news coverage. He also appeared on ABC News’ “The View” on Tuesday to discuss coronavirus.

CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta has become a mainstay on the network and even has a podcast about coronavirus. Dr. Theresa Madaline, an infectious disease specialist with Montefiore Health Systems, has also appeared on CNN to offer insight on coronavirus.

Dr. Irwin Redlener of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness has appeared on a variety of networks to offer insight.

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“It's of the utmost importance and frankly the responsibility of news organizations to have medical experts leading their coverage, not the usual panel of political analysts and pundits,” said NewsBusters managing editor Curtis Houck.

“Sure, there are opportunities to discuss the political news of the day and jostle back and forth on social media or explicitly political sites. That's the beauty of our free society. But at its most fundamental level, the news media's job is to keep the public informed and safe,” Houck said. “Doctors and specifically infectious disease experts have spent their careers studying up for a time like this one, so it's imperative we need their advice.”