3D illustration of Coronavirus

(Shenandoah) – If you work in this business for more than 30 years, chances are you will have seen everything. Even a pandemic now and then.

I was all set to write about the one-year anniversary of the Missouri River flooding of 2019. Remember the floods? Communities evacuated. Businesses closed. Highways and interstates blocked. Lives disrupted—some for good.

At that time, covering the flooding disaster was considered my greatest challenge as a reporter. I’m not exactly sure when, but at some time during the ordeal, I thought to myself, “nothing could be worse than this.”

Then came coronavirus.

COVID-19 swept through Asia and Europe, and made its way into the U.S. Sixty people have died from the virus in this country as of this writing, and approximately 2,955 cases confirmed. Eighteen cases, alone, are confirmed in Iowa. Expect those numbers to increase, and for every aspect of our lives to be impacted for an indefinite period of time.

Sport Armageddon was the just the start. The cancellations of the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournament, plus the College World Series and all spring sports, the suspensions of the NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball seasons were a huge jolt to the system.

Remember the blog I wrote two weeks ago about defunct sports leagues? Now, ALL professional sports leagues are defunct—at least for the time being.

Who knows what’s next with coronavirus? Whatever happens, to paraphrase the late, great Betty Davis, we should all “fasten our seatbelts. We’re in for a bumpy ride.”

That’s why I’m asking you, the reader of this blog, and the listener of KMA News to do one thing: stay calm. And, stay tuned.

Our intrepid news department spent a great deal of time last week generating stories pertaining to the local angle concerning coronavirus. And, we’re prepared to continue doing it for the duration of this crisis. And, it’s this reporter’s pledge that we will do our best to provide factual information concerning the unfolding events.

Stress the words, “factual information.” Perhaps the greatest challenge in reporting this crisis—and any crisis in modern life, for that matter—is competing against the mountain of misinformation spewed from the social media—particularly Facebook. Scrolling through Facebook last week was like walking through a field full of landmines. Glancing at memes making light of the situation was bad enough. Then, there were the inaccurate posts claiming the virus was “an election year hoax.” Equally frustrating were the widely-shared posts urging people to stock up on hand sanitizer and toilet paper, causing widespread shortages.

Perhaps the most ridiculous posts are those blaming the news media for the disease’s spread. “Turn off the news” was a popular meme last week—as if, somehow, not staying informed on the virus will somehow halt its spread.

Speaking as a broadcast journalist, I’m grown accustomed to being a whipping boy. But, to use the social media to blame legitimate radio, television and newspaper outlets and reporters for a virus that has spread worldwide show a lack of intelligence, and maturity.

Here’s a suggestion: for the duration of this situation, stop turning to the social media for information, and turn to legitimate news sources—radio, television, newspapers, and their reputable websites. REAL professionals reporting a REAL situation.

By staying better informed, we’ll all get through this situation—no matter how long it will last.

Mike Peterson is senior news anchor/reporter with KMA News. The opinions expressed in this blog are not necessarily those of this station, its management and its ownership.

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