A headline on a Forum News Service story posted Sept. 8 on dglobe.com read, "Researchers call Sturgis rally a 'superspreader event,' while Noem calls COVID-19 report 'fiction.'"
It reads a fairly written headline, right? After all, it covers of important bases. The first portion alludes to new San Diego State University Center for Health Economics & Policy Studies research stating that last month's Sturgis Motorcycle Rally "should be linked to about 267,000 cases with an all-in public health cost of $12.2 billion." The headline's second portion, of course, refers to South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem's response to the research.
The proceeding story, written for Forum News Service by Jeremy Fugleberg, exceeds 1,000 words and goes into great detail regarding both the research and the resulting response from Noem and other South Dakota officials. It does what good journalism is supposed to do, and that's cover both sides of the story. There's no way Fugleberg could have assembled a good, or fair, story without detailing the resulting reactions. The report is written in a thoroughly objective manner, but sadly, journalistic objectivity seems to be increasingly underappreciated nowadays.
I actually hadn't read Fugleberg's story until I saw that it had been posted on The Globe's Facebook page, just as multiple Forum News Service stories are for us. The headline alone certainly caught my attention. However, so did the high volume of comments that had been recorded., which by no means should have been surprising given the subject matter.
On a personal level, I remain somewhat dumbfounded that a serious matter of public health — one that has resulted in the deaths of nearly 200,000 Americans while taking a economic toll that threatens to become increasingly devastating — has become as politicized as it has. Then again, at a time at which our partisan divide seems greater than ever before, why wouldn't it? Shoot, even the NFL has become a mammoth political football (apologies) recently, and I know more than one person who has told me they won't watch any action on the gridiron this year. That's OK with me, but I've got to believe that Yahoo! Sports columnist Jay Busbee said it perfectly last week when he wrote, "If we’ve learned nothing else about America in 2020, we’ve learned that we have an infinite capacity to ignore the fires raging all around us while we fixate on a pebble in our shoe."
Maybe some of the comments on Fugleberg's story are merely so-called pebbles that I've chosen to fixate on, but as someone who has spent nearly 25 years in the newspaper industry, they're dang uncomfortable. They also hint at some — not all, but some — of the challenges traditional media are facing in this day and age.
I won't list every comment, mind you, but here are a select few (all text keyed here as it was written):
"The news isn't even trying to hide how fake it is anymore."
" Probably just as much of a super spreader as all the riots our corrupt media seems to accept."
" What's with all the fake news they are feeding us??? Can't we ever be told the truth just once???"
"Another case of the media being the virus."
"Globe is a super spreader of BS."
"I seriously feel like I need to stop reading the globes articles because of how ridiculous and asinine they keep getting but at the same they are really cheap entertainment so im kinda torn!" (This one was followed by the response: "I would have thought all of their unsupervised interns have gone back to college, but this may just be their idea if 'journalism..'")
The common thread here, clearly, is that The Globe is apparently feeding irresponsible lies to its readers. But while the research detailed in the aforementioned story on Sturgis may indeed turn out to be wrong, that doesn't diminish its initial need to be reported (as it was by several national outlets)— regardless of what preconceived opinions readers may have about COVID-19. Just as importantly, we may admire or abhor Gov. Noem, but she is South Dakota's governor, and her reaction to such a bombshell of a report is integral to the story's balance.
Considering the news media has been targeted as "the enemy of the people," it only makes sense that people are becoming increasingly inclined to only read the news they want to read. That's fine, but when entities are lambasted for spreading "fake news" — instead of appreciated for simply doing their job and reporting objectively — that label becomes clearly undeserved and unwarranted.