Editor’s notes: Still pursuing the facts in the age of coronavirus

While I’m normally not a big fan of Facebook, candy or long sentences, I also realized that I’m not immune to the impacts of the coronavirus when I was absentmindedly looking over social media on my phone while eating Pop Rocks — my only meal besides blue cheese on a lonely and extemporaneous Tuesday — and realized that there’s more than just benign weirdness in my online family tree.

A woman related to my father, for example, created one of those large-print Facebook statements that called journalists “morons” because COVID-19 stands for Chinese-Originated Viral Infectious Disease that will bring about the End of Days in 19 months. Or something like that. I’m not sure why that makes journalists morons.

For the record, Pop Rocks are kind of gross and COVID-19 simply stands for Corona-Virus-Disease 2019.

Facebook is a different matter. I had gradually lost interest in my personal account after being hounded by ads based on a couple of ill-advised Google searches and failing for years to think of anything witty to write.

But Facebook usage has skyrocketed in the midst of the pandemic, making it a super-charged, double-edged sword for small-town journalists working from home. It rapidly disseminates information, helps people stay connected and reflects the community in all its foibles. Yet it is also an efficient broadcaster of misinformation, as my father’s cousin-twice-removed proved.

Which is where the newspaper comes in. We’ve chased down many Facebook-generated stories related to coronavirus on Whidbey, including a rumor about a newborn named Fauci Covid that turned out to be untrue. Sadly. Many others became feature stories describing life on an island during a pandemic.

Rumor patrol is nothing new. I’ve been chasing down stories floating around the island for more than 20 years. Often, they turn out to be of the too-good-to-be-true variety, but sometimes the trail leads to a doozy.

Indeed, the truth can be weirder than rumor. Remember the burglary who got caught eating frozen bacon or the police chief who left his gun in a grocery store restroom? There was a rash of cats being cut in half; a man who died catching the fish of his dreams; and a guy who stole a dog, took his pants off and crashed a dump truck. And on and on.

Right now we’re in the midst of the biggest news story of a lifetime, which is my excuse for having only crackling candy and stinky cheese to eat at home. Please continue posting your story ideas — and even dubious rumors — on our Facebook page.

Or contact us the old fashioned way. Send an email to editor@whidbeynewsgroup.com. We want to be your trusted source for accurate information.

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