Season 7 Roundtable: Important Issues

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      We’re tackling important issues in a way that’s different from other news coverage. We devoted a lot of time to covering Covid-related stories. People were thirsty for news, views, and angles that other media weren’t covering.

      One of our most popular stories was my report on how the Amish community handled Covid, facing it head-on instead of trying to avoid it, and finding things turned out relatively good for them compared to places that locked down. Here’s an excerpt.

      Calvin Lapp: There’s three things the Amish don't like. And that's government; they won't get involved in government. They don't like the public education system; they won't send their children to education. And they also don't like the health system; they rip us off. Those are three things that we feel like we're fighting against all the time. Well, those three things are all part of what Covid is.

      After a short shutdown last year, the Amish chose a unique path that led to Covid-19 tearing through at warp speed. It began with an important religious holiday in May.

      Lapp: The first time they went back to church, everybody got coronavirus.

      Lapp says they weren’t denying coronavirus. They were facing it head on.

      Calvin Lapp: It’s a worse thing to quit working than dying. But to shut down and say that we can't go to church, we can't get together with family, we can't see our old people in the hospital, we got to quit working? It's going completely against everything that we believe. You're changing our culture completely to try to act like they wanted us to act the last year, and we're not going to do it.

      That story has gotten several million views online and is still going strong.

      We also covered vaccine mandate controversies, we followed the money on Covid relief fraud, and we paid several visits with the experts at Fort Detrick to get a reality check from the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases. We’ve turned to their experts for a steady and rational look at Covid from the start.

      Sharyl: So early on, some people said the vaccines would prevent infection, which it didn’t; said it would prevent spread, which it doesn't necessarily; said that nobody vaccinated would be very sick or ever end up in the hospital or die. And as each one of those things, people looked around and saw that wasn't the case among people that they knew, I think it chipped away at the things that were said that they felt they could believe in.

      John M. Dye Jr.: So, expecting a vaccine to lead to no illness or no negative effects at all was very unrealistic. And I think it could have been messaged better that we expect. However, it's very clear that the vaccine is very advantageous at keeping people out of the hospitals. And it certainly is helpful as far as the symptoms that go along with it, decreasing those symptoms, and allowing us to survive this infectious disease.

      Sharyl: And, of course, we also documented the overcounting of Covid deaths, as well as CDC audio recordings that show their top scientists and officials knew they were disseminating false information about Covid vaccine effectiveness in people who already had Covid, but continued doing it anyway. To date, no public word of any accountability for that.

      Scott Thuman, Lisa Fletcher are with us now. They’ve done remarkable work again this season. Glad you’re here. Glad you’re back with us. Scott, one of the big stories that you continued work on was what started out as the oil boom to what it is today in this country.

      Scott: Yeah, and I think you’d both agree, political policies aren’t something that traditionally excite viewers or get people to pay attention, but they really do start to pay attention when they’re paying more at the pump or to heat their home. And well before the gas prices got as high as they are now, we were asking, “If America has so many resources, so many rich opportunities, why can’t we counter those rising costs?”

      Scott: Prices are high. Supply and demand aren't being met properly. So the government says, "Hey, Texas. Hey, the rest of the country: produce more oil." Why isn't it that easy?

      Jason Modglin: It's not that easy because we need some certainty taking place.

      Certainty, he says, needed because producers want to know their investment in new wells will pay off for years to come. And some industry leaders say that's in doubt, as the White House policies dramatically change the game, halting new permits on federal land, stopping pipelines, and making major new clean energy commitments. It was a cornerstone of President Biden's campaign.

      Scott: Now, the administration will say, “Look, we’re opening up land leases, reserves all across the country," 180 million barrels going out, and that they’re encouraging more production here at home. But those oil and energy companies will say, “Look, if the future, we think, is going green, not black gold, we’re less prone to investing in it. And, of course, they also then have a hard time getting the funding to start new projects.

      Sharyl: Makes sense. We’ll be continuing to cover that. Lisa, one of your big stories had to do with — I don’t know if it’s an overstatement to say — it’s one of the biggest changes in college athletics in many, many years.

      Lisa: Or ever. I don’t think it’s an overstatement at all. In fact, a lot of people thought this would never happen. We’re talking about rule changes by the NCAA, and it was prompted by some activity in the courts, and that now allows college athletes to make money off of their name, image, and likeness. You've probably seen it referred to as N-I-L or NIL in a lot of the stories. But what this has done is opened up possibilities for them in terms of endorsement deals, other forms of compensation, and this universe of online marketing possibilities. Now, a big argument against this was that college athletes are already compensated in the minds of many, because they get tuition, they get room, and they get board. So we went out to Atlanta to meet an NFL player who wanted to tell us why these changes were so necessary.

      Of course, none of this was an issue in the 70’s when Tommy Tuberville played free safety at Southern Arkansas. And it was totally out of his hands as head football coach at Auburn.

      But now, as a U.S. Senator, Tuberville calls this new frontier of NCAA compensation “a big experiment” and believes if college athletes eventually earn a salary, ultimately a handful of schools will dominate sports.

      Sen. Tuberville: You can't have some groups out there doing it one way in one state, and some groups doing it another way.

      Lisa: So if I'm hearing you correctly, you support Congress stepping in to essentially level the playing field, so all the schools and all the student athletes are treated equally.

      Sen. Tuberville: Yeah. The cat's out of the bag now.

      And for some of the elite college athletes — this is kind of shocking — they’re already poised to make millions of dollars, making money off their name, image, and likeness.

      Sharyl: And we’re already hearing about controversies surrounding that.