By Michael Shapiro
Many of us never conceived of the world in which we are living today — a world under siege from a global pandemic. In times of profound fear and uncertainty, misinformation can run rampant. Having accurate information is essential to how we, as a society, respond to a crisis. Local news is often the only source of good information in our communities.
Unfortunately, as I’ve written extensively, local news has been disappearing from communities because of financial pressures on the industry. The coronavirus pandemic has illustrated that local news is not only necessary for the health of our democracy and civic life but also to educate and inform the public in times of crisis.
Social media has provided us, as individuals, with a larger platform than ever before to communicate and share information. While much good has come from social media, these platforms have also provided an avenue for misinformation, bad advice, and the spread of fear. There are limited mechanisms by which information is vetted and reported out.
You need not spend more than a few minutes perusing social media feeds on platforms from TikTok to Facebook to find some posts boasting of coronavirus cures, inaccurate information about how your community is handling the crisis or incorrect recommendations about how to protect yourself. It not only contributes to fear but can lead to even more death and destruction wrought by the pandemic itself.
Over the past two weeks, we have seen record readership across our sites. It shows that people are seeking trusted information in this difficult time. That is why we must view local news as essential infrastructure in our communities. Without it, we run the risk of misinformation ruling the day, resulting in both economic and human casualties.
We at TAPinto are going to continue to do our part to ensure that our readers in the more than 100 communities we serve have the news and information they need to help them during these trying times.
Michael Shapiro is CEO and publisher of TAPinto.net, a network of more than 80 independently owned and operated local news websites in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Florida. This post originally appeared on Medium at https://link.medium.com/fEAsGgOl14, and is re-posted here with the permission of the author.