Rhetorical Analysis of NPR News

coronavirus

The article “White House Unveils Coronavirus Guidelines on Path to Reopening The Country” outlines the three-phase process by which Trump and the coronavirus response team plans to return the U.S. to “normal,” or pre-corona society. It also discusses the context and effects of this announcement, amalgamating quotes from Trump, White House physicians, and state governors.

On the surface, the article appears to be balanced, quoting both Trump and those who disagree with him. The original sources used, such as the three-phase process and Trump’s announcement on the issue, are well-documented and NPR provides direct links for these sources. But the article leads the reader slightly to the conclusion that Trump’s hope to open up the country soon is not realistic. This is done primarily through the facts and opinions the article chooses to present and the people quoted.

The article begins by saying The White House has a plan to return the nation to normal “out of the coronavirus disaster.” Describing the virus as a disaster is factual, but choosing that language to juxtapose it with “normal” immediately signals distance between those two ideas. A disaster is far from normal, or safe. Essentially, this language is an appeal to pathos. The audience starts reading this article feeling fearful of the disaster.

The next several paragraphs are spent reporting Trump’s thoughts on the issue. While he is president and holds significant power, he’s notorious for lying and doubling-down on his claims, especially to the typically center-left audience of NPR. His reputation, his ethos, damages the assumed credibility of his claims. Trump gives statistics, saying, “there have been no new coronavirus cases in the last seven days in more than 850 countries, or roughly 30% of the country.” Simply by attributing these statistics to Trump, regardless of how factual they are, the assumption is that they are incorrect for NPR’s intended audience.

The brief run-down of the proposed three-phase process is just that. It’s a means by which to represent the “other side,” Trumps opinion, his plan. And it seems pretty reasonable as the phases can only proceed once the number of sick people decreases and will stop if the amount of sick people increases.

The article also quotes and explains Trump’s reasoning behind re-opening the country: he fears “the economic paralysis caused by social distancing and other countermeasures” put in place to slow the spread of coronavirus. The paragraphs following this reasoning further support it, explaining all the economic negatives that have come from the coronavirus shutdown. In this way, the article begins to balance the primary sides of the issue: to re-open or not to re-open. By not refuting the specific issue of economic turmoil, the article chooses to side, in that context, with Trump.

However, the article’s parting words are the refutations to re-opening the country from “some governors and critics,” quoting only one governor and one critic, Jeff Bezos. This is a blatant appeal to authority. The article explains that governors, plural, and Bezos worry that reopening will cause a “spike of infections” due to the lack of testing abilities. Not only is the article vague in saying exactly how many governors and critics feel this way, but it shouldn’t matter in the first place. Neither the governor nor Bezos are experts on the issue or when the country should reopen.

The article ends with Trump’s feelings on state-by-state decisions to reopen. It explains that Trump previously thought it would have “amounted to a ‘mutiny'” but now wants states to “harmonize their efforts.” While, again, there’s evidence for Trump eating his words in the past, the choice to place this at the end leaves the audience with a negative feeling about Trump. Additionally, “harmonizing efforts” could easily imply states should all decide to do one thing or another- that one thing being opening up the country.

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