Covering COVID fairly in W.Va.
Gov. Jim Justice Friday criticized the state’s news media outlets over what he sees as a lack of good news being reported on how COVID-19 is being handled in West Virginia.
Responding to a question about the rising number of COVID-19 deaths over the past month, Justice accused the media of not reporting all the positive actions his administration has taken to help the state battle the virus.
From our standpoint on how we’ve covered the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the governor’s blanket accusation is highly unfair.
Since early in the pandemic, when Justice ordered testing of all nursing home residents, our reporter in Charleston covered the story, and we ran that story prominently on the front page.
When Justice closed schools and sent students to remote learning to help keep children and their families safe, that story was reported on — also on the front page of our newspaper. We also reported on his education map, which regulated in-person learning for the return to school in September.
Frankly, our coverage has been fair — positive when warranted, such as when West Virginia was first in the nation to test all nursing home residents, but also critical when the need arises — such as how public education and sports have been handled.
That’s how we’re supposed to operate. And we believe we’ve done that well during the course of this pandemic.
Where Justice also got off-base with his comments Friday is when he claimed that coverage of his plan to prioritize senior citizens in the vaccination schedule had not received fair press. We strongly disagree with that.
In fact, Governor, our reporter, for two press briefings in a row, specifically asked if there was any plan to prioritize seniors in the vaccination rollout, as some other states were doing. He didn’t receive an answer to his question.
Then, in the Dec. 30 press briefing, you announced the rollout of a new plan to vaccinate the state’s most vulnerable. We applauded you for that then, and we do again now. It was the right thing to do.
West Virginia has been at the forefront in making smart, informed decisions on COVID-19 when it comes to testing and the vaccine rollout.
That’s not in debate.
However, to say that all the state’s media outlets have not been reporting on that is just wrong.