US media will turn their spotlight from Ukraine to Biden for a few hours on Tuesday

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US media will briefly step away from 24-hour coverage of Ukraine when President Biden delivers his first State of the Union address on Tuesday.

Conventional wisdom would suggest that Americans care more about portfolio issues close to home than foreign wars. But the current situation seems more complicated. CNN released a new poll on Monday showing that “large majorities of the public say they pay attention to the situation in Ukraine (79% follow at least somewhat closely) and are worried about the conflict leading to war. wider in Europe (80% very or somewhat worried), leading to Russian attacks elsewhere (77%) or threatening US national security (72%).

So there is a lot of interest at the surface level. But some news consumers are more invested than others. In the CNN poll, 31% of respondents said they follow Russian-Ukrainian news very closely; 48% said fairly closely; 18% said not too close and 3% said not at all close.

Personally, I was glued to the TV and digital coverage of the crisis, as were most people who will choose to watch the State of the Union Address for over an hour. But I thought that data was a good check on different audience types for news.

Consumers of Biden speeches will expect to hear about Ukraine, but also about the state of “our” union. “Biden is still expected to tout his major accomplishments: the nomination of the first black woman to the Supreme Court, the prospect of a return to normalcy as Covid-19 cases decline, and the adoption of his first two major legislative priorities in his first year in office,” CNN’s Kevin Liptak, Maegan Vazquez and Jeremy Diamond reported Monday.

Visually different from last year

The CNN story notes that “Tuesday’s remarks will be different from Biden’s last speech in the House chamber, when he spoke in front of a masked Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. He There were a limited number of attendees, all of whom were wearing masks and seated socially distancing.” On Monday, Congress lifted its mask requirement and similar rules are being relaxed in several states. Thus the SOTU will be a visual demonstration of progress in the evolution of the pandemic.

A rare Biden address as a bonus

Oliver Darcy writes, “A notable aspect of Biden’s SOTU speech: It will be one of the few times the President addresses the nation in prime time. Unlike some of his predecessors, Biden seems to be turning his back on speeches prime time, opting instead to speak to the nation during the afternoon hours. This will be a break.”

CNN’s special coverage will begin at 8 p.m. ET. The broadcast networks will begin at 9 p.m., a few minutes before the speech…

What is the state of our union?

Calvin Woodward and Zeke Miller of the Associated Press responded thus: “The state of union is disunion. It is a state of exhaustion due to the pandemic. It’s about feeling ripped off at the grocery store and at the gas pump… about fatigue and frustration – the malaise of our time. But the divisions run deeper and the solutions may be more elusive than the energy crisis, inflation and sense of drift of this era.
No doubt Biden will tell a more upbeat story on Tuesday night. USA Today columnist Jill Lawrence tried to write an introduction to him: “My fellow Americans, the State of the Union is resilient. We are a lucky nation, lucky in our geography, our human and natural resources, our neighbors and allies, and in our founding values. So fuck off.”

Regain consciousness! His point: “Now is the time for tough love”, “fire and resolve”.

Do these speeches even matter?

Barack Obama’s former speechwriter Jon Favreau isn’t saying much. “I think the importance of the State of the Union has declined precipitously over the years,” he told me Sunday in “Reliable Sources.” “I mean, that’s just not how people consume news anymore, people don’t watch hour-long speeches anymore, so you’ve seen the State of the Union viewership go down , but that’s also just the way people consume information these days.” While I largely agree – Nielsen estimated that about 27 million people watched Biden’s joint address to Congress last April in a country of more than 250 million adults – I would note the following: prime-time speeches grab attention, set the agenda, and provide opportunities for viral moments. People who don’t watch live or in full are still picking up bits and pieces hours and days later. So the message still matters.

Further reading

– Lawmakers have “shown a rare and remarkable bipartisan resolve” against the Russian invasion, writes Lisa Mascaro, calling Vladimir Putin “an unexpected force pushing America’s political parties toward a common goal.” (AP)
– “So the challenge for the president right now is not to unite around support for Ukraine or opposition to Russia’s actions,” Amy Walter told the “NewsHour” Monday night. “The challenge right now is for Americans to see the president himself as a leader,” particularly on the economy. (PBS)
— The GOP response to SOTU will come from Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds. Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib will also deliver her own response, “on behalf of the Independent Working Families Party,” which is drawing criticism from centrist Democrats. (USA Today)
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