|Illustration from Medium.com|
Director and professor, Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, University of Kentucky
"No matter how carefully we report . . . for the first time, our readers are questioning the credibility of our reporting on the virus, and that's dismaying," said Les Zaitz, editor-publisher of the weekly Malheur Enterprise in eastern Oregon.
"We consistently have people telling us they don't believe the numbers we report about total coronavirus infections, and the positive testing rate," he wrote. "They accuse us of being in league with government officials to overstate the cases. Some say this is to effect more government control over people. We cite our sources, link to those government sources, and regularly explain the data in plain terms.
He added, "We also get pushback in reporting on when government imposes restrictions (limiting restaurants, for instance). We are accused of fear-mongering and trying to panic people. Again, we clearly cite our sources."
I got similar reports from some editors of Landmark Community Newspapers, with the help of Editorial Director John Nelson, who surveyed them at my request.
"The most intense feedback has been on social media, specifically Facebook," wrote Editor Hugh Willett of the Roane County News in East Tennessee. "We are posting the regular updates on positives cases, deaths, etc., that come from the county mayor’s office. These posts generate a large number of responses and quickly deteriorate into name calling over mask use, government overreach, etc."
"We have gotten a lot negative feedback on Facebook," wrote Editor Travis Jenkins of The News & Reporter in Chester, S.C. "Lots of folks calling it the 'plandemic' and so forth. Lots of people arguing masks don’t work, it infringes on their rights, and such as that. Anytime we post anything about mask ordinances or covid, it goes berserk."
|Editor Miranda Cantrell on the job in Morgan County, Kentucky|