We’ve all gotten the memo to wash our hands, not touch our faces, and stay home to avoid catching coronavirus, but there’s another pandemic afoot that also needs addressing: The viral spread of media blaming.
I’m not saying those who report for the media, however you define it — cable news? radio? newspapers? some blog headline you skimmed on Facebook? — are perfect. Far from it. That’s why we publish corrections, to publicly atone for our journalistic sins.
But in my nearly two decades of covering local news on Long Island, I’ve never seen such an outpouring of animosity toward members of the press who are simply reporting basic facts of significant public concern.
As a reporter, I understand the need to question everything. “If your mother says, ‘I love you,’ double check it,” my old editor would say. But people who are actively defying urgent public health advisories are crossing the line from expressing healthy skepticism to being outright dangerous.
So, here’s a reminder: Fake news is intentionally inaccurate clickbait — online posts designed to lead readers to links of dubious value — such as the recent one making the rounds about liquor stores in New York State closing. Fake news is not a story based on independently verifiable facts that simply challenge your worldview of how things ought to be or are critical of your preferred politician.
The news media are not going to stop reporting on things the public needs to know about, such as how many coronavirus patients were diagnosed in your community, or places that need to be sanitized after an infected person passed through — all stories that have drawn misguided allegations of being sensationalized. These are basic facts people should be aware of so they can take precautions and try to avoid contributing to the exponential community spread of a deadly disease overwhelming our healthcare system.
Don’t believe me? Go ask your local doctor.
Neither shooting the messenger nor overreacting will help us get through these unprecedented times. Just like hoarding toilet paper won’t keep a respiratory illness from spreading, internet lynch mobs trolling journalists for sharing important information with the public won’t cure what ails us. The media didn’t order the coronavirus shutdown and inspire the ensuing chaos; we’re just a mirror that’s reflecting what’s happening.
Are you tired of stories about coronavirus? Stay home so it stops spreading. We’re as sick of this as you are and will be more than happy to cover something else once it’s over.
For more coronavirus coverage, visit longislandpress.com/coronavirus