The guy behind the constant updates

Posted
Hello, my name is Jeffery and I've been the one doing the daily COVID-19 updates.
 
I'll let that thought linger for a moment, giving most of you time to curse me under your breath. Feel free to send me your hate mail regarding the constant updates, but hear me out first.
 
As part of my job at the Daily Mountain Eagle, I handle a lot of the digital side of things, including social media. I am the one that monitors our Facebook comments and I've been seeing a lot of negativity. To be honest, I can't say that I blame you. You're being told you can't work and to stay at home and you feel like you are not even getting the whole picture to explain it all.
 
Here's a personal secret – I have the same questions that all of you do.
 
How many people have recovered from the coronavirus? How many are currently in the hospital? I personally would like to see realtime numbers and not just the cumulative stats. I think that would paint a much more detailed picture of what we're facing. Unfortunately, the Alabama Department of Public Health is not releasing those numbers. We can not force them to do so, and we can't guess what the numbers are. All I can do when I create that graphic every morning is report on the numbers that the ADPH is putting out there. But rest assured, I want to know the same things you want to know.
 
There is a narrative floating around that negativity sells newspaper and thus we are only reporting the negatives. I have two responses to that.
 
First, I cannot think of a single person I work with that enjoys doing stories that negatively impact our community. We love this county and the people in it. The last thing we want to do is have to break  a story that is going to negatively impact the lives of our readers. To the contrary, I think I speak for all of us when I say that we always prefer to make you smile.
 
Secondly, in my one year and a month at the DME, I've learned a thing or two. Yes, negative headlines will get attention, but they're not what sells. What does, you might ask? High school sports sell. Our annual graduation and kindergarten sections sell. New business openings sell. Our uplifting features sell. Walker County and her residents want to be made to smile. We are a naturally happy bunch and it is reflected by that things that, to steal a professional wrestling term, get over.
 
We are not CNN or Fox News or Bloomberg – we don't aim to provide clickbait to boost our numbers. We want more than anything to show you the best of Walker County. Unfortunately, with that comes the responsibility to do the news that nobody wants to hear. Do we want the whole picture, recovery rate included? Absolutely. I promise to you, the day that I can get those numbers from the ADPH, I will eagerly make room on that graphic for those.
 
Do we all have our opinions about what is going on in the world right now? Absolutely, and maybe sometime down the road I'll reflect on all of this with an opinion article about it. But right now I feel a sense of responsibility to give you the information we have and let you make your own decisions about how events are unfolding.
 
As James Phillips said in an earlier column, we are all in this together. While we will continue to ask questions and get you the information that is out there, sometimes it means we are all facing the same frustrations together.
 
Jeffery Winborne is the New Media Coordinator at the Daily Mountain Eagle. He can be reached at jeffery.winborne@mountaineagle.com and on twitter @JLWinborne.