Pollyanna didn’t get COVID-19

James Miller

Our coverage of COVID-19 has been described as both “alarmist” and “Pollyanna.”

There’s not an overall consensus as to how this story should be covered.

In fact, it’s not 80-20, or even 70-30.

I want to assure readers that we are trying our best. Like emergency responders, grocery store employees, school board administrators and elected officials, none of us have experience in how to cover a medical/economic crisis like this.

I graduated with a journalism diploma from college in the mid-1980s and upgraded my training in 2006. Joe Fries, who handled most of the day-to-day operations at the Penticton Herald during the first several weeks of the pandemic and Dave Trifunov, managing editor of The Daily Courier, both have better academic qualifications than I do.

None of us ever read a chapter in our textbooks on “responding to a medical pandemic.”

In 2006, we discussed 9/11 in school, but never a virus outbreak that would bring the economy to its knees and create fear among so many people.

I doubt there’s a J-School in the country that prepared its students for how to cover this, so we chug along, trying to make judgment calls as things unfold in front of us.

I share the anxiety of our business community. I am, after all, a print journalist. Our industry was facing challenges long before COVID-19.

This doesn’t help.

Our readership has been fantastic — we are actually picking up new subscribers who want stay informed while they’re stuck home — but if businesses are shutting down, they’re not advertising. Although we are a subscription product, we can’t survive without advertising revenue.

We are trying to offer other good-news stories. The Okanagan Weekend cover story was on 12-year-old singer Scotty Berg on March 15 and Pastor Tim Schroeder on March 22.

On Tuesday, even though the news was three days old, I wanted significant play for Kenny Rogers, who died on the weekend at age 81.

I’m surprised that of the major news channels I watched on the weekend, Rogers only got a mention on a wire strip along the bottom of the screen.

The major news networks are devoting 24/7 coverage to the pandemic. Can’t they devote five minutes of every hour to news that has nothing to do with COVID-19?

As for being alarmist, again, it’s a fine line. I realize people are scared.

I, too, am angry, scared and worried. But, when something like this happens, it brings the best and worst out in humanity.

To the scammers and hoarders, you should be ashamed.

To those who are running errands for seniors, phoning people who are shut in or offering a song on Facebook to try and brighten everyone else’s day, keep it coming. We love you.

We have also seen another side of humanity — forgiveness. A teenager, whose video from Florida went viral when he said he wasn’t scared of catching coronavirus because he wanted to party, offered a heartfelt apology for his careless words. This came after a huge backlash online. But I can’t say I never said or did something stupid when I was 18.

If you enjoy our coverage, I thank you. We appreciate your support. If I or any member of our news team has angered or disappointed you, I am sorry. It wasn’t due to a lack of trying or caring.

James Miller is managing editor of the Penticton Herald. Email: james.miller@ok.bc.ca or phone 250-490-0880, ext. 300.