The CNN performances were not the only reason that the governor’s ratings were up. Leaders in the midst of crisis almost always benefit from a rallying effect. (Donald Trump right now is a notable exception.) Andrew Cuomo also profited by comparison with the president; while Trump gave unhinged press conferences at the White House, the governor’s appearances were a model of sober and calm leadership. As for the interviews themselves, no one should begrudge the brothers their love for one another. Nor is it wrong, per se, for CNN to seek higher ratings. After all, the goal of journalism is to convey information, and the greater the audience, the better that information spreads. The problem comes when the efforts to juice ratings start to get in the way of accurate journalism that holds officials accountable.
While Andrew Cuomo was benefiting from heart-string-tugging segments on CNN, his state was struggling. Like Trump, Cuomo had promised that COVID-19 wouldn’t be as bad here as elsewhere; like Trump, he didn’t have to wait long to be disproved. Experts said that New York City was always likely to become a center of the virus because of its constant flow of people, size, and density, but as The New York Times reported, “initial efforts by New York officials to stem the outbreak were hampered by their own confused guidance, unheeded warnings, delayed decisions and political infighting.” Promised contact tracing never materialized. Shutdowns came late, and over the governor’s hesitations. Journalism that truly aims to restore trust in media would hold Andrew Cuomo to account for these missteps.