by Brenée Goforth
Communications Associate, John Locke Foundation
Many things have changed since the COVID-19 outbreak began to spread across the country in early 2020. One major change North Carolina has seen is in the way reporters in the state can ask questions to the Cooper administration. The change from in-person press conferences to online briefings has had a questionable impact on freedom of the press. As a recent research brief by our research staff explains:
In a story reported in the North State Journal, the Cooper administration has contracted with a software company to provide the platform for the news conferences that provide updates on the administration’s actions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The company’s product originally was developed for political applications, and it appears the Cooper administration’s use is no different. The software allows Cooper’s folks to screen the journalists and the questions that are asked during the updates. Some journalists, including those from the North State Journal, are ignored week after week.
North State Journal reporters are not alone in being screened out of asking questions. Carolina Journal’s reporters have had the same issue. In our staff’s research brief this week, they pose 15 questions to the current administration. These questions include:
- The administration is anticipating a vaccine at some point. Assuming one is developed, will the Cooper administration mandate vaccination of all North Carolinians?
- Will the Cooper administration deny Medicaid coverage to those who have not been vaccinated?
- The American Academy of Pediatrics and many educational groups have stated that children’s health would be better served by going back to school. Are they wrong?
- The handling of such a public health crisis is complex and requires a balancing of economic impacts and health impacts. Why are we only hearing from health care officials in these briefings?
The answers to these questions are vital information to the North Carolina public and should be dignified with answers. Our researchers conclude:
Answers to these questions and others would give the public confidence in the Cooper administration’s policies. Instead, the administration has manipulated the press and left the public in the dark.