Don Your Way column: Scaremongering? Fear stories? Fake news? Don't be so ridiculous!

“Stop scaremongering!”“Fake news"!“Stop spreading lies and fear!”

Tuesday, 29th September 2020, 4:06 pm

Take a look at the Doncaster Free Press Facebook page at any stage over the last few months and chances are you’ll have seen comments similar to the above.

In fact, it is pretty much the same for every journalist and every local newspaper up and down the land.

During the coronavirus pandemic, social media has been awash with these kind of remarks.

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That and we’re all part of some sort of global Main Stream Media elite (there’s another one you’ve probably seen) pumping out misinformation to panic and scare the public.

The thing is, you couldn't be further from the truth.

We’re in unprecedented times and unchartered waters.

The whole world is coming to terms with something none of us have encountered before.

We're living it just as you are.

We have to wear masks, not see relatives, socially distance in our office from colleagues and leave the pub at 10pm. All this against the backdrop of having to cover what’s essentially the biggest news story of all time.

Quite frankly, its draining. It’s sometimes boring.

We get fed up of trawling through NHS figures and Government statements, bringing you the latest statistics. There’s zero pleasure in that.

But as key workers, its our job. It’s what we do.

So it’s pretty insulting when withing seconds of posting stories, the comments section is awash with posts similar to those above, who think some moron spouting rubbish on a YouTube video is somehow better qualified to tell the story than scientific experts and doctors.

That we pluck made-up figures out of thin air about Covid-19 cases or deaths, just because we want to ‘scaremonger’ and put fear into people.

That we write about panic buying to encourage more panic buying, because it somehow suits an agenda.

That we invent stories just because we’re ‘part of it.’

The other day, Doncaster's Director of Public Health, Rupert Suckling was quoted at length in a story. We were basically accused of making the figures and his comments up, like those statistics were just invented at the drop of a hat.

My colleague, Laura Collins, editor of the Yorkshire Evening Post in Leeds has spoken of the same woes, so its not just Doncaster where it’s happening.

You can read her piece HERE

Believe you me, we’d happily go back to writing about the ins and outs of daily life, the weather, road accidents, the bread and butter staples of local journalism rather than sticking coronavirus or Covid in every headline.

But this pandemic is not going to go away soon and however long it takes, we’ll be here to guide you through it and bring you the news, whether good or bad.

And, as Laura says in her piece, don’t shoot the messenger. We’re here to bring you whatever is happening and whatever the latest rules are, whether we agree with them or not.

Yes, we’ll occasionally make the odd mistake. The odd spelling clanger. But that’s part and parcel of bringing the news to you fast.

‘Why don’t you get the facts before writing something?, they yell. And if we do and put out a story later in the day, we’re accused of being slow and brushed off as ‘old news.’

“Why don’t you write real news?,” is another comment when we choose to focus on something about more light-hearted to take away the doom and gloom of constant Covid reporting.

So basically, whatever we do, we can’t win.

As journalists, we’re used to having pretty thick skins, but the relentless abuse when we’re just trying to do our jobs is draining.

So please, try and understand that these are mad times for all of us and we’re doing our best in extremely challenging days.

We’ll be here for you long after this is all over.