I didn’t plan to write this column – until certain recent events made me want to down a tub of Tums with a Pinot Grigio chaser.
However, it is a timely topic, given that I am writing this while also rushing to put this newspaper to bed ahead of an approaching storm.
The topic is one likely to occur again and again, as it has for the past 30-plus years I’ve lived in the Lowcountry. It has gotten far worse since social media was invented.
I’m talking about armchair meteorologists and climatologists who go into a frenzy when a big storm – in this case, Hurricane Florence – threatens the Eastern Seaboard. They think they have all the answers about where the storm is going, and when, and they want to be the first to share their “knowledge.”
I’m also talking about those avid social media watchers who repeat the latest “news” from a friend of a friend of a neighbor of someone’s cousin Jimmy who heard it in line at the grocery store. (He was probably the one who bought the last 10 loaves of white bread.)
And I’d like to include those who question the decisions made by officials. It’s almost as if having “been through this for 15 years” gives someone a unique insight that everybody else missed.
Please, just stop.
Can we please just let the experts and officials do their jobs, listen to what they have to say, and act accordingly?
If you want to share the latest news, make sure it is the official update. You know, the ones from the experts.
In two of Gov. McMaster’s press conferences leading up to the storm, he was joined by a group of professionals. Those folks are experts in weather forecasting, transportation, law enforcement, civil defense, and other areas related to emergency preparedness.
The experts appeared to be between the ages of about 40 to 65 – let’s say an average age of 52. Let’s figure on about 25 years of professional experience each, for an average of 10 experts.
I’d estimate that the combined professional expertise of that group might be somewhere around 250 years.
That’s a lot of research, studies, training, numbers, learning from experience, watching patterns, and collaboration with other experts. I don’t have that kind of experience in emergency management, weather, traffic or public safety. Do you?
If you have lived in the Lowcountry for 40 years or even the past three years, you have that much experience in storm watching, waiting, staying and-or evacuating. Others might learn from your experience.
But, as we approach a totally new experience, why would we share anything other than the voices of the experts when we post our storm comments on social sites?
Further, why would we question a decision to evacuate this area but not that area? Why must we pummel an official on social media because of a decision made by a panel of experts?
As a journalist, I am trained to find the expert closest to the story, ask questions, listen to his or her answers, and quote that reliable source. I don’t change his or her words. I don’t guess what the expert might have meant to say or could have said. That’s not my job.
As the Governor said in his Sept. 12 press conference, “As we have been predicting, this hurricane is unpredictable.”
Indeed, that is true for pretty much any serious emergency situation. Seems to me, the best all of us can do is listen to the experts and plan – and share – accordingly.