Georgia Isn’t Worth Laugh, ‘Yellow’ News Is

Photo by Jake Weirick on Unsplash

Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia announced April 20 that the state would begin phases of reopening April 24 from a shelter-in-place order. News media copied, pasted and repasted the story ad hoc.

Reports circulated that, despite a shelter-in-place order through April 30, Mr. Kemp would reopen gyms, salons, body art studios — and bowling alleys. President Donald Trump, among others, criticized the governor. News media continued to copy, paste and repaste.

Transplanted residents of Atlanta received text messages from out-of-state friends and family members, which said

“Hope your governor isn’t being too ambitious….”

“I read that GA is opening back up.”

Social media accounts followed the news, copied, pasted, repasted — and generated memes.

What media conglomerates hold difficulty in maintaining are personnel in close proximity to actual events, like the realities for businesses in Atlanta’s metro. Since telecommunication deregulation in the 1980s, the US media landscape transformed from hundreds of localized publications and broadcast stations to what was colloquially considered the “Big 6” by 2011.

Even this is constantly in flux as media continues to consolidate, and the Big 6 is now up for grabs as streaming services and tech giants join the fray. The point is, a literal handful of media companies cannot properly investigate, summarize and report events happening not just nationally but internationally.

The solution: Let one person report so the article “hits the wire.” Then the other outlets share the exact same content with a few minor copy-edits and a byline that notes who originally reported the findings.

Once social media grabs the content, the article is reduced to soundbites and phrases shared without a note of original sourcing. Thus, everyone knows Georgia reopened April 24 to allow people to play 10 frames, touch-up a tattoo and dye their bangs.

But it didn’t. Because the original report not only did not have the personnel. It did not have the time bandwidth to read the actual stipulations for what “reopen” means, as staff are burdened with tight deadlines and a need to keep up advertisement revenue.

All 26 pages of them, which you can find here. (Why no link was proffered for further reading on the top 20 finds from a Google search in news for “Georgia reopens” — including publications by The Atlantic, The New York Times, CNN, Fox News and NBC — adds support to the claims in this article.)

The executive order stipulates

“Therefore, for restaurants, no more than ten (10) patrons should be allowed in the facility per 500 square feet of public space.”

For a local restaurant like Silver Queen in Monroe, Ga., that means they will only allow a party of six per table, with some seating outside and some inside. The party limit is another stipulation within the executive order signed by Mr. Kemp.

‘Silver Queen’ storefront located on Wayne Street in downtown Monroe.

Silver Queen’s Instagram encourages patrons to call ahead to ensure there is a table available. Additionally, the restaurant continues to utilize their food truck to cater in neighborhoods as physical distancing requirements remain in effect.

Stipulations for gyms and fitness centers require the same as those for the food industry, and additional ones like

“Halting the provision of group classes.”

For Pace23 in Decatur, Ga., this local personal fitness studio centers around group classes for spin bikes, total-resistance exercises and high-intensity interval training. Due to stipulations, the studio opts to continue their virtual classes on Facebook Live and considers in-park group exercises that maintain the requirements under cleanliness and physical distancing.

Gym member works-out accompanied byPace23’s virtual class.

For smaller restaurants like Merhaba Shawarma in Clarkston, Ga., the space is less than 500 square feet and allows only the option for takeout. The owner was unable to do so during the initial shelter-in-place because of additional permits necessary to provide a takeout service.

Larger businesses are also impacted by these stipulations, like the following for salons:

“Allowing only one patron per service provider in the business at any one time.”

For Jamison Shaw Hairdressers in the Buckhead neighborhood of Atlanta, no new appointments will be accepted until the appointments cancelled between March and May can be fulfilled. However, at the time of this writing, the salon has yet to begin rescheduling appointments for their patrons.

These facts withhold any endorsement for a set policy or suggestion that physical distancing unnecessary. They present the greater challenge for a time where anti-institutional milieu requires individualized investigation of the ever-growing prevalence of what is known as “yellow journalism,” a term originally coined in the US in the 1890s to characterize news that possess scare headlines, lavish use of pictures or graphics and paraded reports from self-acclaimed experts.

As citizens cry “fake news” and media no longer can properly vet information to its full extent, the responsibility falls on the populace. For better or worse.

For worse, because the segment of society who cries fake and the group who decries the fake criers both feed on the same sensationalism the news offers. They just taste a little different rhetorically.

For better, if taken upon the responsibility to step-in and call foul on yellowed reports. Reports written that encourage drinking hand sanitizer to avoid contraction of COVID-19, headlines typed that isolate the conception of coronavirus to the Chinese government as affirmed by Amazon’s Alexa, and memes dreamed up on grounds that Georgia businesses reopen “as usual.”

Because they haven’t, and what they do reopen will be a business unlike what existed before 2020.

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Lane Lareau

Lane Lareau

Husband, dad, peacemaker, storyteller || Empowering spaces for flourishing || He/him