Coronavirus – Thoughts From The Editor

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Message from Jim Masson, editor at Down News.

As the coronavirus outbreak begins to take hold in Northern Ireland, Down News will report at regular intervals various news items from different agencies and organisations.

It is not the aim of Down News to sensationalise this unfolding disaster as anxiety levels in our community are increasing by the day and mental health is a dimension of this problem we must seriously address given many of us will be isolated for a prolonged period.

Down News editor Jim Masson. reflects on the coronavirus epidemic.

Professional reporting is what Down News does. As a member of the National Union of Journalists, I adhere to their ethical reporting standards and have done so for many years.

Down News is a digital news platform, a hyper local blog, which has been running now for over ten years, covering issues and events across County Down. So if anyone has a story or a photo they want to share (it doesn’t have to be coronavirus related, and preferrably not!), they are very welcome to contact me at:

editor@downnews.co.uk : or phone 07855545873.

We are all going through difficult times and sometimes the messages I have to post may not be what any of us want to hear. I pick up language such as a “war on coronavirus” eg by the Prime Minister, but many would argue he is one step behind many countries in Europe and we still face a lockdown as the coronavirus is set to spike over coming weeks with its inevitable toll on our population. That’s what countries in Europe think! The PM believes this can all be turned round in 12 weeks whilst scientific advice says that social distancing under strict circumstances will need to be in place for a year. We are in new territory and it would be great to believe the PM was indeed correct. But my fear is that he is emulating King Canute and raising false hope, raising expectations. But I don’t want to be accused of scapegoating and blaming BJ for all the worlds ills. Maybe just a few of them!

Whilst I am not an expert in epidemiology, it would seem a fairly sensible precaution given now that children are off school to be more ‘authoritarian’ about how they socialise in the coming months. Social distancing appears to be a key tool in fighting the virus, but what if children or their parents treat this as an extended school holiday?

Both parents and children need to behave responsibly and carefully monitor their children and provide what stimuli they can to occupy their minds as boredom can be an issue and a problem.

Youngsters are often glued to iPads etc but we may have to live with this for a while. And of course there is an issue of what schools will provide in terms of e-learning and how that will transpire. From this disaster we will no doubt learn new ways of doing things. Life will continue.

We all know it’s hard to pin youngsters down at the best of times and most teenagers now have smart phones and will be communicating with their friends which has benefits and disbenefits.

If we lived in a perfect world Sky TV and Netflix would make make their channels open on a temporary basis to everyone in order to keep people homebound but that is an issue for government. It would be a good marketing ploy for them too.

Children are certainly likely not to be affected the most by the virus – but their grandparents are vulnerable. As a grandparent I am actually now experiencing this and the regular contact I have had with my grandchildren has almost ceased. I must admit it is unpleasant and unnatural not to want to see your grandchildren. But that’s just a personal point, one which many seniors will be experiencing.

And yes, it is difficult to manage Down News at the end of a telephone most of the time but it can be done i fpush comes to shove.

I am almost working totally from home now like so many people. I still have my office at the Down Business Centre and make sorties in there occasionally avoiding contact and washing my hands when I have to.

Like many, I am angry that many government responses are completely lacking. For example:

  • Why are front line medical staff now experiencing shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) eg proper masks ?
  • Why was the decision taken last across the UK for the schools in Northern Ireland to close?
  • Why are people irresponsibly panic buying and fixated on toilet rolls?
  • Why did local councils or central government not have an emergency epidemic disaster plan in place for outbreaks such as this? If so, why has it not been produced?

The questions roll on and, to be honest, may not be all that helpful. It is easy to point fingers and go down the scapegoating route. Introspection can be dangerous. It is best to behave well in the here-and-now and plan well for the future on sound advice so we can get out of this dreadful mess. It will require inventiveness, courage, patience, selflessness, generosity, charity, commitment, and many other personal qualities, and for many, it will mean prayer and devotion. At best we must treat this all as a tragic learning curve and learn from it.

I will be posting further articles today and going forward on coronavirus keeping you all informed about latest developments and information.

As I said, Down News is an established bone fide digital news platform. Beware of the coronavirus empire-builders who pedal false news and information. The internet and social media can be a positive experience, and it can also raise anxiety levels unnecessarily, irresponsibly and inadvertently through over saturation.

Stay tuned in and stay well folks !

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