There is a malignant attitude against science, news and information right at a time when those things are needed most. As publisher, I am subject to complaint every time I report news of COVID-19, accused of sensationalism and stirring panic to sell more papers.

I don't sell papers, nor do I sell access to the news I publish ... it is free and available to interested readers 24/7 around the globe. No subscriptions, no fees, not even any intrusive pop-up advertisements, ads being the sole revenue source supporting this publication.

Of course I want more readers, that's how a news source typically measures success. And not only because having more readers equates to more or higher paying advertisers.

I look at the numbers of readers more as an indication of trust, which is, at base, the product I specialize in. Without trust, I have nothing, which is why I go to great lengths to ensure that what I present is true and represents the best information available.

That is why when I make a factual error, I do my best to make sure everybody sees the correction.

In situations such as, say, the imminent eruption of the Yellowstone supercaldera or the COVID-19 pandemic, there is much speculation, which is why I strive to report information vetted by the scientists trusted by our government and elected officials.

I have no reason to want to stir panic, nothing at all to gain by doing so. I have everything to gain by presenting news my readers can rely on.

"We're doing so well after the plague," President Donald Trump told thousands at a rally in Arizona last week. "It's going away."

No, Mr. President, it is not.

The news I've shared from the nation's scientific community is proving to be far nearer to the truth of how the pandemic is progressing than the messages coming from the White House.

In the last week, after a hurried economic reopening, 30 states saw their COVID-19 statistics climb.

Many, including Idaho, last week set single day new case records.

Many, including Idaho, backed up in their plans to reopen the economy, realizing that the scientific and medical community was right that moving ahead too rapidly to save the economy and easing the painful restrictions necessary to curtail a virus too soon are proving detrimental, if not catastrophic.

And still there are legions spouting a plethora of mantras to dismiss the scientific community's best advice and ignore the mounting statistical evidence that nearly every day confirms the efficacy of their recommendations over the wishful thinking coming from the administration.

Telling the truth is not an attempt to instill panic, but meant to give sound information on which readers can base decisions. It's not advice. What you do with it is up to you.

That so many continue to bask in the smoke being blown up their backside is their prerogative, but that so many offer up so much outlandish and thoroughly debunked alternatives and do their best to shoot the messenger, calling the reports "fake news" and "fear mongering," is dangerous.

It makes no sense that a species that so prides itself on its intelligence so willingly refutes and denies the information that is proving correct to embrace wishful fallacy, choosing long-term harm over short-term self-sacrifice, the one skill that supposedly sets humans apart from the animals.

It's happened before when people refused to believe the best science of the day, and the era is now known to history as "the Dark Ages," the coming out of it "the Enlightenment."

Is than an epoch we need to repeat?

Publisher

Mike Weland has been a journalist since serving as battalion Hometown News specialist in the Army's 82nd Airborne Division beginning in 1979. He is publisher, editor and reporter at KootenaiValleyTimes.com, which he launched in March, 2018.

(3) comments

Mike Weland Staff
Mike Weland

Not at all, Phillipqb, quite the converse! All science begins with an idea, an opinion, if you will, to include good science, which follows a rigorous process by which those ideas are tested and challenged and examined through the strenuous process of publication and peer review.

Those ideas that are accepted aren't always right, but most help move the scientific canon forward as new ideas and new technologies improve our tools and understanding. Newton's physics put men on the moon and sent Voyager beyond our solar system, but Einstein's insight supplanted Newton ... and scientist are still testing and refining Einstein's theories.

No sir, I do not say science should not be questioned, quite the opposite. What I do say is that most laymen, myself at the head of the list, do not practice the scientific method, we embrace ideas that are either previously debunked or not yet tested and consider those ideas plausible. Today, more than at any time I've seen before, too many insist that the ideas they embrace supplant the science most experience scientists in the most responsible positions agree on, and the messengers who refuse to give equal ink to all the often contradictory ideas are "fake news."

This in spite of day-to-day statistics that follow the predictions made by the science.

Giving every side of any topic is never good reporting, especially when that reportage is of immediate importance because it muddles and confuses when clarity is needed.

I don't know anyone who smells smoke in a theater who would stand up and tell of the different types of fire, that it might not even be fire, that there are 18 different ways each individual can reach one of the nine distinct exits or, if they so desire they can continue to enjoy the movie and popcorn because even if there is a fire, some could possibly survive it no ... no sir, most will succinctly yell "FIRE" and leave it at that.

Honest and rigorous debate is the hallmark of good science, but insisting that one's point of view is correct in spite of overwhelming contrary evidence is not good science, especially when that insistence is coming from the highest echelon.

As a reporter, I am not qualified to judge the scientific merit of all the many ideas and insights in all the varied fields of scientific endeavor. I should not be asked to do so in my reporting.

If the ideas being touted have merit, introduce them to the scientific community and allow for review among those with the discipline, knowledge and experience. Alternative science that withstands the rigors is science, and at that point, I'm okay reporting it. That's good journalism, and it protects readers from being overwhelmed with truly fake news.

phillipqb

So don't question science? That's your position? For every "statistic" favoring one point of view, there is another favoring the other. Debate is the essence of science. To dismiss others reasoning, supported by similar data viewed differently, is being close minded. Scientific fact takes a looonnngg time to establish in most cases. If there is not a robust debate and criticism back and forth, errors occur. Your apparent belief that to question the path to take to "save just one no matter what it takes" seems short sighted to me, IMHO.

Ron McCollum

[smile]......Mike, you've got to know that we the community love you. Unlike, The Herald who takes its orders from down south, you uniquely belong to our community. We may not always agree with some of your left leaning opinions, but we do appreciate that you try to be fair and unbiased - well at least the best you can........ If the truth be known, all of us are opinionated in one direction or another, but just so you know, my wife and I get a kick out of your articles. If it wasn't for you, my wife and I would have been searching for a deal on hazmat suits after the report came out a Boundary County women tested positive for Covid-19; but they failed to mention she is not currently living in our County, and that is what your good local reporting is all about when you searched out that fact. Don't let the naysayers get you down....for everyone of those, you've got a hundred that love you..........Blessings Ron & Kathy

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