The Potluck

At least 100 reporters call into daily COVID-19 phone briefing with Walz, health department

By: - March 30, 2020 11:38 am

Normally press conferences are informal, with reporters jockeying to ask questions in person.

On a good day, a reporter’s chance of being called on during the daily phone-briefing with Gov. Tim Walz and the Minnesota Department of Health about COVID-19 is about 1-in-100. 

On a busier day, it might be 1 in 200. 

A governor’s spokesman acknowledged the shortfalls of the daily call, responding to journalists’ increasing frustration that some outlets or reporters aren’t called on during the question-and-answer portion of the daily briefing. 

Unlike the governor’s usual gaggle of reporters assigned to the Capitol, the daily briefings have attracted at least 100 journalists each day, sometimes twice that, said Walz press secretary, Teddy Tschann. 

Tschann explained the call is hosted and managed by a third-party teleconferencing company whose operator calls on journalists based on who most quickly dials *1. 

So, essentially, it’s the equivalent of trying to win a radio station’s call-in contest for Disney on Ice tickets, or Phish, if you’re into that kind of thing. (For the record, I was one of those frequent callers who never won concert tickets.)

To be sure, the state is responding to a pandemic, one never before seen in our lifetime. Walz is currently under home quarantine because of his exposure to COVID-19 after a member of his security detail tested positive for the disease. 

He has nonetheless maintained a ubiquitous presence online, sharing his stay-home experience on Facebook Live, using Twitter to re-assure Minnesotans he is healthy and well and regularly issuing news releases with his near-daily executive orders in response to the growing pandemic. 

Tschann said the phone-in briefing is “temporary” and that the administration is doing the best it can as it responds to “hundreds of media inquiries” every day. 

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Ricardo Lopez
Ricardo Lopez

Ricardo Lopez was a senior political reporter for the Reformer. Ricardo is not new to Minnesota politics, previously reporting on the Dayton administration and statehouse for The Star Tribune from 2014 to 2017, and the Republican National Convention in 2016. Previously, he was a staff writer at The Los Angeles Times covering the California economy. He's a Las Vegas native who has adopted Minnesota as his home state. In his spare time, he likes to run, cook and volunteer with Save-a-Bull, a Minneapolis dog rescue group.

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