In fairness though, I should have realized how well played the announcement was by government spin doctors. The 5pm news dump worked like a charm.
What the Hell?
Around 5pm last Monday afternoon, a news release was issued by the Alberta government that had two shocking announcements. In just over 24 hours, Albertans would no longer have to isolate if they had tested positive for COVID and all masking mandates on public transit systems like busses and commuter trains would end.
What the hell? Is this for real?
There must be somebody who will explain the reasoning for this right? When is the news conference? Who will speak? Premier Kenney? Health Minister Copping? Dr. Deena Hinshaw?
No? Really? No newser eh? Wow!
Despite the biggest government announcements on COVID in a year, there was no news conference scheduled. Nobody would explain why these major steps were being taken. The news release provided some information, but nobody was put in front of the media to answer questions.
I thought we would get some answers on Wednesday when the COVID update took place, but remembered that this was an “off week” and no news conference would be held. Nobody from the government was scheduled to speak about the changes for nine days.
Best Summer Ever II
Other than the Best Summer Ever announcement that was made almost a year to the day, these changes have to be biggest ones since public health restrictions were put in place early in the pandemic.
The reason there was no news conference was simple. The spin doctors working for government knew the announcements would make less of a splash in the media if they weren’t explained. The more of an explanation the more people would hear about it and react to it on social media. If there was a news conference, the impact of the announcement would have been much larger.
Nothing to see here. Just move along.
Let’s do a quick review of what happened. The big daily newspapers didn’t have time to get answers and gather reaction before putting the paper to bed that evening. The Edmonton Journal ran a story the next day, but it was buried somewhere in the first section and it was just a rewrite of the news release. I would imagine what was in other papers was similar.
I didn’t see TV newscasts that night, but know that stations are reluctant to lead with a story without video to back it up. There would be almost no way they could have put together a story in less than an hour. They likely ran the details of the news release too. Just the facts. There was no negative reaction.
You got to hand it to the government spin doctors. Their strategy worked nicely. There was no public outcry. No protests and not even a big uproar in social media. I didn’t even hear municipal officials complain about masking being lifted on public transit. In Edmonton, City Council had already voted to lift the mask mandate when the government got to this phase of COVID recovery, but I didn’t even hear complaints about a lack of proper notice.
The 5pm News Dump
Part of the problem is the news media itself. I thought this was a story that the media would have jumped on and demand answers from those making the decisions.
The local media seems to have checked out on COVID and is now much more interested in the UCP leadership race. Other than a few reporters who cover the latest COVID developments on Twitter, most reporters have “gone back to regular programming” and are covering other stories.
In fairness, on Monday reporters in Calgary had to be more concerned about another massive flood. That was their focus when the COVID story broke.
That’s something else the government spin doctors knew and likely took into consideration.
These were two very big changes. To think that children could go back into classrooms minutes after testing positive for COVID seems crazy. If the government was going to make that move, why not wait until the end of the school year? Maybe there was no good explanation for that? The masking change on public transit was huge too, considering masks have been mandatory on public transit for over two years.
As all this goes on, wait times in hospital emergency wards across the province are longer than they’ve been in many months. Part of the problem is the number of people going to hospital who are really sick with COVID. Won’t these changes make the situation even worse? Perhaps that’s a question the government didn’t have an answer for. It didn’t need one as it turned out.
The announcement was made and there was barely a ripple in the media.
That’s just what the government wanted. The 5pm news dump worked like a charm.