Publisher’s Perspective: The media’s role in covering COVID-19 (Opinion)
By now, you’re sure to have heard that the media has fueled much of the perpetuation of the fear of the COVID-19 pandemic. And while I don’t doubt there are mass media outlets using the issue to gain clicks and viewers, I want to urge you to take those statements with an industrial-sized grain of salt.
Whether we like it or not, we as a local media outlet are grouped with the larger term “media” that everyone is throwing out there. However, I can assure you we are not creating content in an effort to create fear, or as some have put it, “control” the general population.
When counties or cities declare a state of emergency, that’s not something that we should ignore. We need to report on that because it involves the safety of the communities we serve.
When an event or business closes (such as our entire ski industry), that affects everyone. In an area that thrives on tourism, we are surely in for some tough times ahead and we’re all essentially joined at the hip for the foreseeable future. This is also necessary to report.
Before this past week, many of us had not heard of the terms like “social distancing” or “flattening the curve.” We are passing this information on because it’s what the CDC is telling us that it’s the best way to prevent large-scale infection. We’ll continue to tell people not to forget to wash their hands because it is proven as a way to prevent spreading.
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What we won’t do is fabricate issues or report on rumors. I’m sure as events play out, people will be seeking information. Many of this, based on what our sister outlets in Colorado are seeing, will come with questions that we won’t be able to answer.
We may not get the information fast enough, or it’s possible it may never come – but it won’t be for lack of trying. Or, as in the case of what should be considered urban legend, we won’t withhold information that is vital to the health of the community so we can control the narrative.
We will hold ourselves accountable to providing you with the information as it becomes available. But we also ask you the community, to hold yourselves accountable to spreading misinformation.
Just as easily as the statement of media propagating fear, fictional or untrue statements can have a ripple effect that could cost someone their life. While that may be a bit over the top of a statement, it doesn’t mean it’s not true.
Many of our elderly population don’t have the same resources as others. They may take information that is not true, not have a source to debunk, and do something that they shouldn’t.
We all have a role in getting through this ordeal. It’s ultimately up to you on how you handle the information provided. But make no mistake; this is not something that should be taken lightly. Be smart.
I’m sure there will be plenty of folks that read this column and still be angry about what I’ve said and not believe that it’s truthful.
If you find yourself one of those people, you’d probably be better off at directing that anger at those people who started the toilet paper domino. That’s way more something to get mad at than us reporting LTUSD has closed.
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