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Sick reporting

How do you report on the health of a (possibly) ailing old man?

When that person is the President of the US, we apparently think we are entitled to know just about everything.

In one briefing yesterday we were told about his heart beat, his blood pressure, his weight, and which medications he is on to get over Covid.

This approach seems to extend to other politicians too, however rude the questions may seem.

Is Boris too fat? How much does he drink? How many chins has he got? Does he pay them all maintenance?

One suspects the irony of these questions being asked by hacks, not regarded as a universally healthy bunch, is not lost on the PM or the President.

With business people we tend to be gentler.

When BT boss Philip Jansen tested positive for Covid-19 in March the questions didn’t go much beyond, is he ok? (He is.)

Sometimes when CEOs suddenly stand down for reasons not clear, a flak will whisper that the poor fellow has a very serious illness, and say that it is up to the hack to decide whether to report this news or not.

We usually don’t.

I think that is the right approach and I don’t really see why politicians shouldn’t be entitled to the same privacy as business leaders. How healthy was Winston Churchill? Or Abraham Lincoln?

Perhaps the politicians just need better flaks.


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