Tony Podesta
Tony Podesta

“If you want something done in Washington, DC, you go to Tony Podesta,” boasts

China’s Huawei Technologies, which is battling US sanctions, apparently agrees. It reportedly hired Podesta, whose firm imploded in 2017 as it was caught in the federal investigation of former president Trump’s ties to Russia.

The media though have always had a soft spot in their hearts for Tony.

He was dubbed one of DC’s “50 heavy lifters” (Financial Times), “one of Washington’s biggest players” (New York Times), “Washington super lobbyist” (Bloomberg Businessweek), “The Lobbyist” (Newsweek) and “a king of K Street” (Politico).

Can the now 77-year-old Podesta regain his crown? Don’t bet against it.

Ditch the PR guy, says a coalition of journalism groups in a letter to Alondra Nelson and Jane Lubchenco, deputy directors of the White House’s office of science and technology policy.

The Coalition says its members' efforts to get honest and timely answers from government agencies is “intentionally hindered” by the ham-fisted media policy of the Biden administration.

The Government hinders the media by “barring government scientists, issue specialists and other government employees from communicating directly with reporters and even refusing to allow interviews of such scientists or specialists even with oversight by a public information officer.”

The Coalition understands that “sometimes some information must remain confidential and the public information officers can be and are often helpful to journalists.”

They would like to see the elimination of restrictions on employees speaking to reporters without notification of authorities; allowing credentialed journalists to enter, without escort, any area of federal facilities where most employees are allowed; and establishing a standard policy that when reporters voluntarily contact public information offices, they are allowed to speak to the people they request.

The Coalition of 25 groups includes Society of Professional Journalists, Radio Television Digital News Assn., National Newspaper Assn., National Writers Union, Tully Center for Free Speech, Society of Environmental Journalism and SABEW—Assn. of Business Journalists.

It warns: “Agencies that control the public scrutiny of themselves can develop critical weaknesses and be subject to political interference.”

The media stir the COVID-19 misinformation stew by covering each change of guidance from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention as a major policy reversal.

The New York Times, for instance, led off its July 28 story about the CDC’s updated recommendation that COVID-19 vaccinated people should wear masks indoors in areas where the virus is surging, as a reversal of a decision “made just two months ago.”

Readers could get the impression that the CDC is a knee-jerk operation, issuing guidance in a willy-nilly fashion. That coverage undermines the credibility of the CDC.

Science is not static. When the CDC dropped its indoor mask mandate for vaccinated people in May, the Delta variant of the virus had not yet emerged as a threat.

That variant, which is a highly transmissible strain, now accounts for nearly all the COVID-19 hospitalizations in the US. Mask up, America.

Facts change. Science must adjust to new realities and so does journalism.

Dr. Anthony Fauci hailed the CDC’s new guidance. “I don’t think this is just flip-flopping back and forth,” he said. “They’re dealing with new information that science is providing.”

More mutations of COVID-19 are on the way. They will necessitate the CDC to issue more revisions and updates.

The media need to update their coverage of the CDC.