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Coronavirus will fade; the life-changes will not – “The Sunday Political Brunch” April 19, 2020

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CHARLESTON, W. Va. – I hate political clichés. Having covered politics for 40-plus years, I get tired of politicians who spit out trite, tired phrases such as, “At the end of the day,” and “Kicking the can down the road!” But, these days one of those clichés may ring true. And that’s, “Is this the new normal?” Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“Tech Triumph” – If this crisis has taught us anything, it’s that high-tech is a real blessing. The tech phenomenon was in its infancy in our last national crisis on 9-11 in 2001. Now its possibilities have exploded into full bloom. Cancel school nationwide? That’s okay, we’ll just host lessons online! Can’t go to the doctor’s office in person? That’s okay, we’ll just Facetime and diagnose my health problems online. Yes, in-person classes and doctor visits will return, but this new platform of other options is here to stay.

“Online Education on My Mind!” – The fact that U.S. colleges and universities have been able to transition to online classrooms this semester should not be a surprise. The same is true for K-12 education. Look, hundreds of American universities have been offering online degrees for several years now – from Associates to Doctorates. And no, these aren’t diploma mills. Among the leaders are such august institutions as the University of Florida (one of my alma maters), and Arizona State University. Religious-based institutions, such as Liberty University, are way ahead of the curve, too.

“Who’s Learning Online?” – Everyone. It’s multi-generational. In 2016, I earned my fourth college degree, an Associate in Science degree in Computer Studies from the Community College of Rhode Island. While I started the program in Rhode Island, I suddenly had to move for a new job and finished 90 percent of the degree taking courses online from West Virginia. To young people, this learning curve is their oxygen. For me, age 56 at the time, it was like climbing Mt. Everest, but in hindsight very well worth it. Online education – whether from colleges or webinars – is here to stay

“Tele-Health TV” – No, I am not talking about going to see Dr. Marcus Welby in his office on the popular 1970’s TV show. I’m talking about doing Skype and Facetime with your doctor, right here and right now in 2020. They can even hook up diagnostic apps to your phone to read your temperature, blood pressure, and A1C if you’re diabetic. This week I interviewed Federal Communications Commissioner Brendan Carr, who said of the technology, "And really think about this as the health care equivalent of shifting from Blockbuster to Netflix. You don't have to go to a brick and mortar facility anymore. You can get this care delivered right to you on your phone." Amazing!!!

“Can You Hear Me Now?” – Of course, technology is a two-way street. Just because one person can do it, doesn’t mean you can, too! West Virginia, with its mountainous, rural landscape, has among the worst broadband and cell service in the nation. Technology is great, unless you can’t connect. U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, (R) West Virginia told me, "It's not without challenges. Speaking with a doctor in Mason County, his issue is, he may have the technology himself, but do his patients have it at their home?"
“The Paradigm Shift” – It’s kind of an academic, egghead-term which we talked about a lot in 2008 and 2009 with the election of President Obama. Sometimes, there is cultural, technological or educational sea-change that remaps the whole landscape. 2008 marked the paradigm shift from the importance of old media (radio, TV and newspapers), to the burgeoning, dominant forces of new media (websites, social media and blogs). It was a media earthquake! Well, it’s happening again. The paradigm shift of today is from “in-person” interactions to “online” interactions. It’s huge! Look, for example, at what online shopping has done to America’s shopping malls.
“Let the Music Play!” – As many of my readers know, I was in the music business in the 1970s and 80s. While I left the biz for other career pursuits, some of my musical contemporaries are still in the business and they are doing online concerts from home which have been spectacular! Go on Facebook and search for Pat McCurdy, Dave Ciccantelli and Mark Cutler, to name a few. GREAT musical talent for tough times!

“No More Hugs and Handshakes?” – One of the saddest questions I’ve had to face over the past few weeks, asked by way too many people to count was, “Do you think this will mark the end of hugs and handshakes for good?” It honesty breaks my hearts to even consider. My answer, with a high degree of confidence, is no! Folks, I believe personal contact and interaction is simply human nature. Hugging is the emotional oxygen of love and affection. Handshakes are a sign of physical and emotional welcoming, of support and bridging differences. They will be back, and last to eternity and beyond.

“Zooming to My Next Zoom Conference” – As with any crisis there will be winners and losers. One of the biggest winners is the Zoom conference technology, as well as Skype and Facetime video conferencing. This is going to be a staple for business, government and media from here on out, pandemic or not. We do our daily media briefing with Governor Jim Justice and staff here in West Virginia. Usually it’s about 20 reporters in their individual newsrooms, the Governor, and various staff members, all from their own offices. Safe, health wise? Yes. But practical in terms of news gathering and dissemination of public information? Pretty efficient. It’s here to stay!

How is your use of technology helping you through the Covid-19 crisis? Just let us know by clicking the comment button on this page!

Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media TV stations serving West Virginia, its five neighboring states and most of the Washington, D.C. media market. He is a National Contributing Political Writer for “The White House Patch” at www.Patch.com.

© Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo courtesy: Getty Images

“Oh, that’s Right! There’s an Election This Year!” – Sunday Political Brunch, April 12, 2020

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CHARLESTON, W. Va. – I am up to my eyeballs in the Coronavirus coverage. It’s literally all I do anymore - morning, noon, and night. I am physically and mentally drained by this story. In fact, I am so all-consumed by it, I’ve hardly had time to focus on any of the political implications. That’s a weird feeling, because after all, this is an election year. Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“Bernie ‘Burns Out’ in ‘Flame Out!’” – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I) Vermont officially ended his second quest for the presidential nomination of the Democratic Party. Even though Sanders has 941 of the 1,991 delegates needed for the nomination - with a lot of states yet to vote – the momentum isn’t going his way. The surge in recent contests puts Joe Biden in the lead with 1,217 delegates. Most of the other candidates who’ve dropped out have endorsed Biden and released their delegates. It’s his nomination to lose, or is it?

“Oh No, it’s Cuomo!” – Many Democrats are speaking privately about a brokered convention. Yes, Biden can win the nomination, but can he beat President Trump? There are a lot of doubters. The Coronavirus crisis has rocketed Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) New York into the forefront. No state has been hit harder by Covid-19 than New York. Cuomo and Trump have talked a lot, and have been complimentary to each other, but you must wonder how long that will last. A lot of us thought Cuomo would run for the White House in 2020, but he passed. But has the opportunity closed entirely? I don’t think so. Keep an eye on Cuomo. A New York Post poll has 56 percent of Democrats want Cuomo, with 44 percent sticking with Biden. Wow!

“Cuomo Versus Cuomo” – Okay, this is probably an “inside journalism” ethics debate, but is anyone else besides me concerned about how many times Gov. Andrew Cuomo has appeared on his brother Chis Cuomo’s show on CNN? In journalism school they told us this a is big “no-no.” It’s a huge conflict of interest. But in the interests of full-disclosure, I have interviewed my daughter several times on-air, as she has been a newsmaker in her own right. I think it’s okay if you ask them questions you would ask of any other person in their role. The big concern comes if you are actively trying to promote their cause or agenda. Chris asked his older brother if he was going to make a backdoor run for president. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said, “People asked me, well, will you run for president, I said no. I’m not that guy, Chris. I’m not that politician that says, yeah, it’s all about me, the next step on the ladder. … I am true to my word.” We’ll see.

“Trump’s Troubles” – We’re less than seven months away from the November election, and there is some troubling polling for President Trump. A Reuters/Ipsos Poll this week shows that only 42 percent of respondents approve of President Trump’s handling of the Coronavirus outbreak. That’s down from 48 percent approval last week. A March 22 poll had 55 percent approving of Trump’s responds. So, the erosion of support is concerning to Republicans. The big wild card here is how long the crisis lasts. If it peaks, then dissipates in the next month, Trump may be on a glidepath to reelection. But if the caseload and death rate explode and we’re still dealing with this in June, he has serious problems that, perhaps are irreversible.

“To Primary, or Not to Primary?” – For the second time this primary season we’ve seen a state literally have a meltdown over whether to hold a primary election. A few weeks ago, it was Ohio where it was on-again, off-again a least four different times in a 24-hour period. Ultimately Ohio moved its primary to June. In my home state of Wisconsin, it was on-again, off-again as well, until the Wisconsin Supreme Court said the election could proceed this past Tuesday. In many polling places it was chaos, with not enough poll workers, and voters confused about where to go, and what to do. There was a grand push for people to vote absentee, but for many it was too little, too late. I heard lots of complaints from both Democrats and Republicans in my Badger State.

“West Virginia Gets it Right” – I firmly believe all voters have the right to vote in peace, and not fear and chaos. They need to vote with clarity, not confusion. In West Virginia, our Governor, with support from the Secretary of State and the Attorney General, decided last week to move the May 12th primary, to June 9th. In addition, all 1.2 million registered voters were sent a postcard this week, asking if they would like to vote by absentee ballot, instead of in person. Tradition tells us polling places are packed with elderly voters, and senior poll workers – a high-risk group for Covid-19. This was a well-executed plan to maximize voter participation, while minimizing the health risks. More states should follow West Virginia’s lead!

How has the Coronavirus affected your voting plans in 2020? Just click the comment button and let us know!

Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media TV stations serving West Virginia and it’s five surrounding states, and most of the Washington, D.C. media market. He is a National Contributing Political Reporter for The White House Patch at www.Patch.com.

© 2020, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo courtesy: Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

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