By Shereen Siewert, Editor and Publisher, Wausau Pilot & Review
Happy Monday, readers. I hope you found ways to enjoy your Easter celebrations, and are staying safe and warm.
There’s a lot happening this week, and we’re looking forward to covering it. Today, we expect to publish election results from last week’s primary. Finally, we’ll know who won Wausau’s mayoral race, who will represent us on the next city council, Wausau School Board and Marathon County board. Watch for that after 4 p.m., along with insight on voter turnout in our area.
We’re also working on a list of children in our region and throughout the state who have been recently reported missing, something we do periodically to help keep a focus on faces and names, as their families wait for answers.
We’re also putting together a feature to help honor area high school seniors, who are missing out on the usual pomp and circumstance of their final months in school.
And, we’re continuing to work on major changes to the user experience. Soon, we will unveil a completely revamped website, one that will load much more quickly than the one we designed three years ago. Because internet speeds are excruciatingly slow right now and because we have many more readers than before, this has become an urgent priority, rather than a project to tinker with in our spare time. We’re also working on a sleek, new app to replace the slow-loading behemoth we currently have. That, too, will be available soon.
When we pull the switch and shift to these new designs, there may be a few glitches along the way. Please be patient as we fine-tune, and be sure to alert us to anything that doesn’t seem to work the way it should.
As the coronavirus health emergency declared by President Trump rolls on, we’ll continue bringing you the latest information on the outbreak, as well as tips to stay safe and secure during this time. Last week, we answered some of the most common questions we were seeing from readers, addressing how COVID-19 compares to seasonal flu, and why we don’t report on the number of people who have recovered from the virus. (The short answer is that we can’t – that data isn’t available to us.)
Every day, we post a “Virus in brief,” with the number of infections and deaths in the county and in the state, along with a roundup of the most recent developments. And each day, the comment section on Facebook has one or two people who accuse us of being fear mongers. I’d like to address that here.
The coronavirus outbreak has had a devastating effect on people and businesses throughout our area, like nothing I’ve ever seen before. It’s also taken a heavy toll on us, both from a personal and from a business standpoint. The idea that we are somehow profiting from this, or take some kind of evil pleasure in it, is not only offensive. It just doesn’t make sense. If, as some readers think, this is all some silly hoax and that the world’s greatest scientists, people who have spent their entire adult lives studying diseases and pandemics, are wrong, I would be ecstatic.
We’ll see. That’s all we can do.
In the meantime, be aware that social media and the internet have created a perfect storm for fake news that looks real, but is only spreading misinformation at an alarming rate. Bots on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and elsewhere are sharing stories meant to cause more confusion and chaos.
On one hand, we have people potentially storming the supermarkets in mass hysteria, believing the world is about to end because of an article they read that said coronavirus could be spread via toilet seat. On the flip side are those who refuse to believe that the disease is truly a threat, and in turn dismiss the importance of social distancing, holding “coronavirus parties” in homes and neighborhoods throughout the area.
Fake news is creating a health crisis of its own. This week, we’ll put together a guide to help you identify what’s real and what isn’t.
Finally, another reminder about comments on Facebook. Differing opinions are welcome, and we want you to feel free to express yourself. But there are rules, and there is a line we expect you not to cross. We explain those rules in this editorial. Commenters who don’t follow the rules can and will be banned. And no, banning someone or removing their comments from a Facebook page isn’t robbing them of their right to free speech. The First Amendment to the Constitution protects individuals from government actions that could infringe upon their right to speak their minds. We’re not the government.
And, come on. I think we could all stand a little more kindness and a little less hate right now anyway. Don’t you?
Thanks for reading. Stay safe and well, and have a great week.