This might seem like an odd column for someone whose title is “New York Correspondent” to write, but as the nation battles the Wuhan virus it is too often covered as a New York story, not a national one. There are reasons for this; New York is the epicenter with the most cases and the majority of deaths. But it is not, at least so far, indicative of the experiences of the vast majority of Americans.
In truth, this is an issue that predates the virus, there has always been a cultural trade gap between America’s largest city and the rest of the country. In a vastly disproportionate number movies, sitcoms, cop shows, the nightly news, ‘The View,’ the morning news, you name it there’s probably an iconic NYC skyscraper on the screen at some point.
The upshot of this is that the rest of America knows a whole lot about New York while very New Yorkers know very little about the rest of America. I once had a Midwestern radio host remark to me that of if snows in New York, he somehow knows about it. Why? The virus, with its stunning images of a massive Navy medical ship passing behind the Statue of Liberty only exacerbates this already existing gap.
But there seems to another purpose at work here as well, which is to use New York as a warning to the rest of the country about what might be coming their way. But it is important to remember that there are very unique things about Gotham that make it especially susceptible to infections.
As Gov. Andrew Cuomo has pointed out time and again, the best friend of the virus is population density; in this respect no other American City comes close. It also relies far more on public transportation than private cars, every subway pole (we don’t hang on straps anymore) is a potential hot spot for disease. It is in many ways a deadly and perfect petri dish.
President Trump was wise last week to take the advice of his medical experts and resist, for now, re-opening more rural areas that do not face the special challenges our mega cities do. But as time goes on, these one-size fits all approaches might start to make less sense. Different areas might have different needs.
Aside from the medical concerns and a deep and responsible desire by the news media to err on the side of caution, they are also missing the stories in the rest of the country that really, truly matter. One advantage of writing for The Federalist is that though our staff is close knit, it is also scattered across the country. What they are seeing in places like Indiana and Alabama belies the myth that these more Trumpy places are not taking this seriously. My colleague John Daniel Davidson ran a wonderful piece about how neighborhoods in Austin, Texas are coming alive as people help each other.
As a New Yorker, I frankly feel deprived of these stories from the other America, I am already living the frightening lock down in Gotham, I don’t need to see it on cable news 24 hours a day. We want to know about the places that are far less ravaged, how life has changed there and how it hasn’t. We don’t actually have a national news media; we have New York/DC news media that pays a bit of attention to other places when something awful happens there.
I’m not asking for a lot, 10 minutes out of every news hour, a few column inches in Section A of national papers, but even that has been hard to find in the past few weeks. America as of late has felt less like a united nation and more like warring factions. At every turn we seek to divide each other.
In the past, crisis has brought the United States together, the pride of living in our great nation, where we help each other has bubbled when we have needed it most. It’s not clear that this is happening this time, and it needs to. As Lincoln said, a nation divided against itself cannot stand. A few more stories that have thus far gone untold could go a long way in helping to foster such unity.