To believe or not to believe? That is the question

SHEILA A. MATHEWS :::
EDITORIAL COLUMN

To be cliché as I state the obvious, we’re living in uncertain times.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been met with an unprecedented global response that has virtually everyone scrambling to keep up with a constant flow of information.

While The GRIP will only report information obtained from vetted sources, that doesn’t necessarily prevent confusion. Information from an official source that is published at 2 p.m. can be contradicted by an update ten minutes later.

That doesn’t make either report untrue.

That doesn’t make The GRIP “fake news.”

It most certainly doesn’t make me a liar.

It’s indicative of the fact that this is an exceedingly fluid situation, and I am working quite hard to get information out to the public as soon as it’s reasonably possible.

This principle applies not only to The GRIP, but to other reliable sources of information, as well.

Monday afternoon, I reported that rumors of a confirmed case of COVID-19 in Spalding County were false – that there was no confirmed case.

Later that night, the Griffin Daily News, WKEU and Spalding County Sheriff Darrell Dix reported otherwise, stating there was one confirmed case.

Numerous people reached out to me, asking if I had additional information about those reports, to which I responded that I did not, but would get to work on it. I immediately reached out to Hayla Folden, the Georgia Department of Public Health District 4 Public Information Officer, and when we spoke Tuesday morning, she affirmed that there was at that time no confirmed case of COVID-19 in Spalding County.

We discussed the reports others had made and the basis of those reports – a presentation made Monday night to the Spalding County Board of Commissioners by Dr. Olugbenga Obasanjo, Georgia Department of Public Health District 4 Medical Director.

We also discussed the apparent crux of the issue, which is the criteria used to compile statistical data – confirmed cases are reported based on the patient’s county of residence, not the location of the health care provider that ordered or performed the test.

I then did my job and reported the findings of my inquiry.

Based on the responses of many, rather than simply reporting factual relevant information, you would have thought I declared war against Sheriff Dix, the Griffin Daily News and WKEU.

I quickly lost count of how many people called me a liar and declared The GRIP “fake news.”

I was accused of creating confusion and causing panic.

Let me remind you, I reported GOOD NEWS – there were then zero confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Spalding County – but people didn’t care about that. They would much rather believe me to be unethical and dishonest.

Here’s the thing, folks – I’m not a liar.

My reports – all of them – have been truthful and factually correct.

Want to hear another really cool thing?

On Monday night, Sheriff Dix, the Griffin Daily News and WKEU did nothing but factually and accurately report information provided by a reliable, vetted source.

That information was later found to be incorrect, but there was no way for them to know that at the time their reports were made.

Here’s the awesome thing, though. NONE of us did anything wrong. We all acted in a professionally responsible manner.

Sadly, far too many people have apparently forgotten that as human beings, we are fallible.

We make mistakes. Unintentional, regrettable mistakes.

That is a far cry from behaving with malicious intent, which is what quite a few decent people have been accused of doing this week.

I spoke with Hayla Folden again yesterday.

Although I already knew the answer and felt awful for asking, I did ask the obvious question – did Dr. Obasanjo deliberately lie when he addressed the Spalding County Board of Commissioners in his official capacity?

Her response?

“No, not deliberately, no. That was just misinformation on our part where we were just running with information we had at the time.”

She elaborated, “He found out as he was speaking that it wasn’t a Spalding County resident and that didn’t come across. He was being sent messages as he was speaking, and he had already said that before he found out.”

In other words, the only thing Dr. Obasanjo is guilty of is being a human being.

A human being who has dedicated his life to serving others, but let us not allow that pesky reality to interfere with accusing him of being a liar. Yes, there are some who have wrongly inferred just that. What a shame.

Can we all just stop, please?

I can assure you I have nothing to gain by lying to my readers.

I won’t presume to speak for anyone else, but I feel confident that others maligned this week would likely concur.

Tensions are running high. I understand that. I’m not immune to life’s stresses, but as valid as our feelings may be, attacking one another does nothing to mitigate the risks we all face or alleviate the tension this situation causes.

That leads me to another important point. When mistakes are made, and it’s going to happen, for the love of all things holy, please remember that we’re human. It’s unnecessary and unhelpful to immediately assume the worst.

Over the past couple of days, I, myself, have made a few mistakes. Not at all shocking. They were typos and copy and paste mistakes. Real stupid stuff. I hate it when I get it wrong, but especially when it’s so easily avoidable. Anywho, what happened you may wonder?

Dear readers politely and with all civility point out my errors.

In turn, I acknowledged my gaffes, corrected them and thanked the readers for letting me know.

In each instance, my dear readers were understanding with the collective attitude of, “It happens.”

To summarize, I made unintentional mistakes, they were pointed out, I corrected them and we all went about living our lives.

No ugly words were exchanged.

No feelings were hurt.

The mistakes were quickly and simply resolved.

THAT is called being decent human beings.

I say it should be considered Adulting 101.

We all want information, but that endless stream can act as a catalyst that causes increased fear and anxiety. That doesn’t lead to sound decision making or a happy life, so may I offer a suggestion? If you find the constant flow of information is negatively impacting your life, take a break. Just walk away.

We live in the Information Age. Briefly tuning out the news – yes, that includes The GRIP – can be super healthy, and no worries. You won’t miss anything. Whatever was there an hour ago will be there two hours from now.

Step outside and enjoy this incredibly beautiful spring day.

To quote my beloved childhood hero, Mr. Rogers, let’s make the most of this beautiful day.

Remember, y’all, kindness counts.

(As of Thursday afternoon, March 20, there are three confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Spalding County.)

Publisher’s note: The news you find in The GRIP is free for all. You’ll never be hindered by a paywall or limited to only a few articles each month. That’s because knowledge CANNOT be a commodity available only to those with the ability to purchase it.
While the news will always be free for all, it is far from free to produce. That’s why The GRIP needs your support.
Please consider making a donation that will enable The GRIP to continue to provide relevant news in your community and beyond. All support will be greatly appreciated, whether a small one-time donation or recurring monthly gift.
Thank you!
https://www.patreon.com/user?u=16902623

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