Briefings have become must-watch TV

Published 8:28 am Friday, April 3, 2020

In the strange times we now live in, the daily briefings by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has become must-see television.

With people viewing across a number of social media outlets, it is hard to judge how many people are watching the briefings, but on WOUB’s Facebook page, 23,000 people were watching on Thursday. Some Ohio TV stations report that the viewership was 30-50 percent higher than their regular programming.

A recent news article by BBC News commended DeWine for being ahead of the curve when it came to the coronavirus pandemic and rightly so. At the beginning of March, DeWine and Public Health Department director Amy Acton got a lot of flak for closing down the Arnold Sports Festival on March 5, because the event brings in around $50 million in tourism dollars to Columbus.

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However, DeWine and Acton were concerned because it also brings in 20,000 athletes and 60,000 spectators from 80 countries. At the time, there were no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state.

Just three days later, there were three confirmed cases. As of Thursday, there were 81 deaths and 2,092 positive cases.

On March 12, DeWine started his daily briefings and since then it has started its own hashtag #winewithdewine, drinking games and, of course, T-shirts.

All jokes aside, the briefings are an odd combination of folksy things like first lady Francis DeWine talking about activities she has done with her grandkids, videos of Girl Scouts and fact-based information from Acton, who pulls no punches when she says how bad things could be. Then the governor calmly and methodically tells people what new order is coming down and why. Other state officials are brought in when their department is doing something or an explanation is needed.

And of course, there is the American Sign Language interpreter, Marla Berkowitz, who is a senior lecturer at The Ohio State University. Noted for her very animated style, she explained it is because communicating in sign language requires facial expressions and that she is interpreting for deaf, deaf-blind, deaf-disabled and the hard of hearing community.

In an age of claims of fake or biased news, it is great for Ohio to have a governor who is speaking directly to the public, to not only help them understand what is going on, but to be a calming presence in a time of much uncertainty.