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EDITORIAL: Fuel issue shows need for local coverage

Following the news of the hacking of computer systems of the Colonial Pipeline, there were reports of panic buying of gasoline in the southeast of the U.S., which is served by the pipeline.

While concern about supply there was justified, as the pipeline provides nearly half of the fuel to the region, the situation became an unnecessary crisis as people rushed to fuel multiple vehicles per family, filling tanks and hoarding leading to stations running out of gasoline.

Further illustrating the problem of a crisis being exacerbated, it was reported that six percent of gas stations in West Virginia ran out of fuel, which is especially notable as the state is not served by the pipeline and only its easternmost regions are even peripherally affected by it.

Driving this panic was the fact that many saw the coverage of lines on national news and assumed, wrongly, that it would happen to them.

And this really shows the need for local media in to give a much needed, immediate framing to a national news story.

Those in a “news desert,” the term coined to refer to towns and counties without a local newspaper, would be forced to rely on national news to get the story and would not have a local perspective.

At best, they might have a television station to turn to, but, as stations have wide coverage areas and, due to the nature of broadcast news, an inability to cover things in depth, the presence of local explanatory reporting could seriously be lacking.

At worst, they could rely on erroneous posts on Facebook, which, let’s face it, is where truth goes to die, and is rife with conspiracy theories, misinformation, errors and only feeds such a panic.

Here at The Ironton Tribune, we decided to do some rumor control on Thursday, reaching out to County Commissioner DeAnna Holliday, who works in the fuel industry, to explain the situation to readers and assure them that there was no shortage locally.

While panic buying had not taken place locally that morning, we felt it was important to get the facts out there so they could be shared.

Whether it is taking place in another part of the country, as was the case with the pipeline situation, or an international situation like COVID-19, which impacted us here, it is always important to have reliable information on local issues.

We strive to provide this to our readers and we hope that those across the country will continue to turn to local reporting, if it is available, when questions arise.