On My Soapbox: Viral sunshine

Today is the first day of Sunshine Week – March 15-21. Sunshine Week is a national initiative spearheaded by the American Society of News Editors to educate the public about the importance of open government and the dangers of excessive and unnecessary secrecy. It began in 2005.

Transparency is a major concern among citizens, especially in Taylor. Right now, the major concern is the coronavirus. People are going into a panic and over buying supplies because of it.

The blame for the panic is the media – yes, that includes the local newspaper – because reports continue to surface. Well, reporting is our job. Relaying information is what we do. How people respond is a different story (pun intended).

Yes, people are overreacting. Yes, coronavirus is all over the news. Yes, questions are being asked about it. However, the real question is who is or is not being transparent about this?

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been 22,000 deaths from the flu in America this season. According to WorldoMeter, there are 41 deaths from the coronavirus in America.

The media isn’t saying that. Or, did I just say that?

The city and the school have been very transparent about their plans when monitoring this situation locally. I have had just about every question I asked answered. There are a few questions that require a little research, so I am waiting on responses. The information has been released in a timely manner.

Representatives from Williamson County have also been good at responding to inquiries related to the coronavirus. I had two phone conversations Friday before press time and received emails with information.

At press time Friday, there were no reported cases in Williamson County. However, several events in Taylor and the surrounding areas were either canceled or postponed. We asked for the information and received it promptly.

Local big box store managers would not comment but did direct us to press releases from their corporate offices.

We have done our best to keep everyone honest surrounding the outbreak. I don’t feel like anything has been hidden. The overwhelming difference in deaths between the flu and the coronavirus has been omitted in many cases.

So, to say the media is blowing this out of proportion is not completely true. When the NBA, NHL, NCAA and UIL cancel or suspend annual money-making events, it’s news. It has to be reported. That doesn’t mean we want to cause a panic. It means the media is doing their job and relaying the information.

Like I have always said, if you want to know the truth about something you see on national news. Go to that city’s local newspaper.

I’m going to get off of my soapbox now and . . . well, I don’t know. There are no college or professional sports for a while. I’m really tired of watching Jimmy Neutron and Disney movies, but at this point I don’t think I’ll have a choice.

“We want to be as transparent and open as we expect our government to be.”

- Rhonda Bletner, Editor of The Mountain Press

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