CVIndependent

Fri12042020

Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

It’s common practice for media organizations to prepare coverage of certain events before said events have actually happened.

Take obituaries, for example. The Associated Press, The New York Times and other large media organizations have files upon files of pre-written obituaries for prominent people. (Reporters once worked on them on what used to be called “slow news days,” a concept that the year 2020 has completely and totally obliterated.) This way, when a death does occur, all editors need to do is pull out the pre-written obit, add in a date and a cause of death, and perhaps update a few details before quickly publishing. This practice is sometimes called “preparedness.”

Sometimes, this preparedness can cause weirdness. The New York Times, for example, has a long and storied history of publishing bylined obituaries penned by writers who themselves have been dead for years.

Then there’s the problem of obituaries making their way to the wire or the internet before the subject has actually died. My favorite example of this happened back in 1998, when someone working for the AP hit the wrong button, more or less, and sent out Bob Hope’s obituary. The obit was clearly not complete—a bunch of x’s were in the places where Hope’s cause of death and his age would have been—but the story got the attention of an aide to then-House Majority Leader Dick Armey, which led to Hope’s death being announced on the House floor. Which led Reuters to report Hope’s death. Which led ABC Radio to report Hope’s death. And so on.

Hope would live five more years.

Today, in an effort to get things published online quickly after they happen, some news websites will pre-write stories, just in case something, which may or may not happen, actually happens. And this brings us to the big mistake Deadline made yesterday.

The background: Vice President Mike Pence cancelled an event scheduled for today in his home state. Even though a Pence spokesman said at the time that COVID-19 was NOT the reason for the change, the fact that the White House is now confirmed to have been the site of a super-spreader event led to all sorts of speculation—and apparently led Deadline to write up a piece announcing that Pence had tested positive for COVID-19, so it was ready to go in case that actually happened.

But then someone at Deadline actually published the piece. And then the piece was shared on Deadline’s Twitter page.

As with the AP’s premature Bob Hope obit, it was clear to anyone paying attention that the Deadline piece was published prematurely, given “PREP. DO NOT PUBLISH UNTIL THE NEWS CROSSES” was in the headline before the actual headline. But that didn’t stop people from jumping to erroneous conclusions —even though as of this writing, the vice president appears to be COVID-free.

Sigh. I miss slow news days.

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Today’s news:

The second presidential debate is officially cancelled. The Commission on Presidential Debates wanted to make the scheduled Oct. 15 debate a virtual event, because one of the two participants was recently diagnosed with COVID-19. However, that participant refused to participate in a virtual event, so the debate was cancelled. As of now, the Oct. 22 debate remains on the schedule, but who in the hell knows what the 13 days between now and then will bring.

And then there’s this headline from The New York Times: “Trump plans to hold a rally for thousands on the White House lawn Saturday, raising new concerns over possible virus spread.” He also has a rally planned in Florida on Monday. Yes, really.

Related, from Reuters: “U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, one of President Donald Trump’s most powerful allies in Washington, has avoided visiting the White House for more than two months because of its handling of the coronavirus, he told reporters on Thursday.” Holy cow!

• Oh, and the White House last month blocked the CDC from requiring masks on all forms of public and commercial transportation, according to the Times. My god.

• Hey, who needs a drink? We’re only the intro plus three stories into this Digest, but I sure do … and a Manhattan sounds amazing! But did you know the sweet vermouth you use in a Manhattan is just as important as the whiskey? So here’s a Thrillist piece on some good sweet vermouths.

• Before we get to more despair, let’s share some good news on the COVID-19 battle. First: Two drug-makers have requested emergency-use authorizations for antibody therapies to battle SARS-CoV-2—including the one the president received. Per NBC News: “The announcements from drug manufacturers Regeneron and Eli Lilly came within hours of Trump making public pleas to drum up support and enthusiasm for the medicines—referring to the antibodies as a ‘cure,’ despite a lack of evidence backing up such a claim.” Still, the therapies show promise.

Fingers crossed regarding this CNBC lede: “Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Thursday the U.S. could have enough COVID-19 vaccine doses for every American as early as March, a more optimistic estimate than President Donald Trump has publicly said.”

Also from CNBC comes the news that the FDA has granted emergency authorization for a rapid test that can screen patients for both the flu and COVID-19—plus other viruses and bugs.

• Hey, another silver lining! COVID-19 is making us filthy Americans wash our disgusting hands more frequently.

The New York Times today published yet another piece regarding portions of President Trump’s taxes where the numbers don’t really add up. This story involves a mysterious $21 million in payments to Trump in 2016 that largely “went through a company called Trump Las Vegas Sales and Marketing that had little previous income, no clear business purpose and no employees.”

Yet another NFL team was in limbo today after a positive COVID-19 test. (It turned out that the test was apparently a false positive.) As CNBC points out, the NFL is likely to keep playing, no matter what—because too much money is at stake.

• Did you know that the rich have access to private firefighting crews? The Los Angeles Times points out that not only does this raise serious questions about societal inequities; “when private, for-profit groups come in and don’t follow protocol, they can confuse residents, get in the way of firefighting activities or even require assistance themselves.”

• Why in the world are rolling blackouts still a thing in 2020? According to our partners at CalMatters, the preliminary results of an investigation into the blackouts earlier this year show the state did a bad job at planning and preparing.

Also from CalMatters, via the Independent: Proposition 24 is one of the most confusing questions on the ballot this year. It’s supposed to protect citizens’ privacy on the internet … but leading privacy advocates disagree on whether the proposition would actually do that.

Happy Friday, everyone. We made it through another crazy week! Be safe, and have a great weekend. The Digest will return Monday.

Published in Daily Digest

Today is Jackie Robinson Day, the anniversary of Robinson taking the field in a Brooklyn Dodgers uniform at Ebbets Field on April 15, 1947—shattering the color barrier in Major League Baseball.

Robinson’s uniform number, 42, was retired throughout Major League Baseball back in 1997, with one exception: On April 15, every player wears the No. 42.

For all sorts of reasons, Jackie Robinson Day means a lot to me. Robinson is the main reason I became a baseball fan (and a Dodgers fan); at one point in elementary school, I was assigned to read a biography, and somehow, I wound up with Jackie Robinson. I was inspired—and Jackie Robinson has been a hero of mine ever since. In fact, a poster with Jackie’s photo, with the definition of the word “courage,” hangs just to the right of the unbelievably cluttered desk at my home office.

cour•age n. 1. The mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear or difficulty. 2. Valor.

Of course, Jackie Robinson Day can be celebrated only virtually today, because there is no baseball in this country on this April 15.

Please forgive me for feeling a bit sad right now. I am keeping things in proper mental perspective. Take, for example, what Jackie Robinson had to endure on a daily basis back in 1947, when he was literally risking his life to play baseball—and carrying the burden of knowing that if he failed, either on the field or off, he could potentially set back a whole movement. Me? I merely have to stay at home for a while, wear a mask when I have to go somewhere, and tighten the budget belt for a bit.

That’s what my mind says. But my heart aches due to the fact that there’s no baseball on Jackie Robinson Day, nor will there be anytime in the immediate future. (The same goes for a lot of things, of course.)

For now, I’ll suck it up, maybe cry a little, and remember that definition of courage: the mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear or difficulty.

Here are today’s links:

• You know those antibody tests that are starting to appear? They’re not necessarily reliable right now. The nice way of putting it: “They’re a work in progress.”

• From the Independent: Anita Rufus points out that not only should you consider setting up an advance directive (living will) if you don’t have one; if you do have one, you may want to revisit it, given what we now know about COVID-19.

• Also from the Independent: Our Kevin Carlow encourages you to cut down on food waste by pickling or otherwise preserving vegetables before they go bad. And yes, you can even use the ends, stems and skins that you’d normally throw away.

• Speaking of vegetables, all of this uncertainty is leading people to start growing their own food.

• The state is taking better steps to get help to people who have not yet gotten their unemployment, plus independent contractors and undocumented immigrants, according to Gov. Newsom.

• The Washington Post reports on the strategy being developed by FEMA and the CDC to begin reopening the country. Take from it what you will.

• So … the president apparently insists on having his name on the physical stimulus checks being sent to people, even if it delays them being sent by a few days. Now, where did I put that bourbon?

Some government agencies are not being as open with information as they should be during this damned pandemic. This is a very bad thing.

• Now this, actually, would not be a bad thing, if 1) true and 2) it’s shown that most infected people have at least temporary immunity: One study suggests that there may be 10 times more COVID-19 cases in California than the number being reported. However, a lot of smart people don’t buy this conclusion.

• You know that thing going around on social media where people post their high school pics and say where and when they graduated, ostensibly to support current high school seniors who won’t get proper senior years and graduations? Uh, well, you probably shouldn’t do that.

• Rolling Stone looks in depth at the deep damage the pandemic is doing to the live-music world.

• Damn, the lockdown is even driving Martha Stewart to get hammered.

• The city of Palm Springs has set up a hotline for people to report violations of various COVID-19-related rules.

• OK, let’s get to some happier stuff, shall we? For starters, the Los Angeles Times offers up this list of 13 things you can do to stay sane during this highly annoying time.

• Jake Tapper has a Twitter-thread story that starts awful, but has a hopeful, happy ending.

• Finally, I find this oddly reassuring, even though they never, ever should have budged on “over” being an OK substitute for “more than”: The Associated Press Stylebook now has guidance on COVID-19.

That’s enough for today. Wash your hands. Submit your virtual events to our online calendar. Please help us continue to do local, quality journalism, free to all, by becoming a Supporter of the Independent if you have the means to do so. Wear a mask when you must go out in public—if not because it’s the right thing to do, then because someone may call the city of Palm Springs and report your irresponsible self. More tomorrow.

Published in Daily Digest