Maybe part of the reason Time magazine has become so irrelevant is that its journalism stinks.
For decades Time and its weekly cousins Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report were the go-to-places to read continuing in-depth coverage of presidential races and world-shaking events like 9/11 and our serial wars in the Middle East.
The Big Three newsweeklies were predictably liberal in both their news judgment and opinions, but they at least usually tried to appear fair and balanced. When print was king, they were a reliable and valuable source of important news and good reporting for generations of Americans when print was king.
Today no one cares what news magazines think about anything or who they endorse for president or who’s on their front covers — if they have front covers. Like many daily newspapers, they are dead institutions walking.
“Sweden’s Relaxed Approach to the Coronavirus Could Already Be Backfiring,” Time’s negatively tilted April 9 article about Sweden’s deliberately measured approach to dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, is a perfect example of how low Time’s journalism has fallen.
Time’s Mélissa Godin starts out nice.
While comparing the effect of Covid-19 on Sweden with its Scandinavian neighbors, she describes how life is still almost normal in Stockholm.
“Children walk to school while adults meet up for dinner at their local bar. Only the vulnerable have been advised to isolate and some are working from home.”
It sounds like heaven compared to the jittery, locked-down ghost-towns of America.
But Ms. Godin and her editors didn’t write their piece to show how Sweden’s “laissez-faire” approach was working fairly well.
Or that it might be a better, more reasonable, less harmful and far less authoritarian way to defeat the coronavirus than severely and broadly shutting down Sweden’s economic and social life for several months like we have.
Time — like virtually every major (liberal) media outlet in the USA does when it covers Sweden’s Other Way — does whatever it can to discredit it or shame it.
In less hysterical and panicked times, Sweden’s government policy would be praised for its common sense, not branded a “Russian-roulette” strategy as the Guardian slimed it in a headline on March 23.
Sweden’s good Social Democrats wisely closed their school and universities, protected the old and the already sick and reduced crowd sizes to 50 or under.
But instead of telling everyone everywhere within its borders to shelter/cower in place, it advised its citizens to work from home as much as possible, avoid crowded places like bars and restaurants and behave like responsible, free adults.
Ms. Godin’s little hit piece is deeply worried about Sweden’s comparatively high case fatality rate: “as of April 8, 7.68% of the Swedes tested positive for COVID-19 had died of the virus.” (Norway and Denmark had case fatality rates of 1.46% and 3.85% while the U.S. rate was 3.21%.)
It plays the familiar scary-but-meaningless numbers game, tossing around preliminary or insufficient data about infection rates and fatality rates that we know are meaningless and/or misleading in real time until more accurate data is collected from wider testing.
Like so much Covid-19 coverage, Time’s article finds little room for perspective: no mention or breakdown of the Swedes who have died of Covid-19 or their underlying conditions.
For the record, as of April 7, when the number of deaths was 591, according to Statista.com, 32 of those Swedish fatalities were under age 60; 41 were between 60 and 70; 156 were between 70 and 80 and 360 were aged 80 or older. (As of April 14, total deaths in Sweden had jumped to 899, which some media seemed a little too happy to say proved Sweden’s policy of moderation was a failure.)
Ms. Godin admits that Sweden’s higher death rate could be because the government has tested fewer people, but she and her magazine prefer to blame the government’s “laissez-faire approach.”
She stresses that many experts say it is “dangerous” because it doesn’t effectively slow the spread of the virus and therefore a wave of infected people could overwhelm Sweden’s relatively small health care system.
As for the experts, in her quest to make her case, Ms. Godin gathered several solid, scary quotes.
— An associate professor of clinical epidemiology said “this is a virus that can kill anybody.”
— Another expert said the government’s strategy is “not based on evidence.”
— A head doctor at a major hospital in Sweden said the current approach will “probably end in a historical massacre.”
— Another expert who said “it’s already too late to prevent chaos in Stockholm but the rest of the country can be saved,” added that “based on the modeling she’s seen, the healthcare system in Sweden will collapse if stricter measures are not adopted immediately.”
This same expert of doom provides the awful article’s final quote, which is pretty ironic considering the present and future damage that has been done by dozens of governments to their populaces with their media-favored lock-down approach.
The quotable expert in microbial pathogenesis, Ms. Godin says, “believes this outbreak could bring an end to a long history of public trust in government. ‘If you put people’s lives at risk in democratic society and then you do not help them, how will society trust politicians? she says. “I don’t want to live in a society that treats people like this.”
Sweden’s productive market economy reportedly has been hammered just about as hard as the rest of the developed world. But so far there are no media reports that its healthcare system has been overwhelmed — or that most of its citizens are happy their government treats then more like responsible free adults instead of children.
Update: Sweden’s death toll is over 1,000 but that number is imprecise as this article — from Sweden — explains.