David Trinko: Why the newspaper keeps reporting numbers

The old adage says numbers never lie.

According to plenty of internet comments over the past two years, they lied to you nearly daily.

If you’re a regular reader of The Lima News, you may notice we’re not printing the daily coronavirus tallies from the Ohio Department of Health anymore. We’ve switched to printing them once a week, with the first weekly one on Saturday. The next will appear Friday (more on that later).

First, I’d like to focus on why we ever started running those numbers in the first place. When COVID-19 first struck, most of the country was somewhere between confused and terrified of the new disease. We didn’t really understand it enough to know much about it.

Our country’s, state’s and community’s leaders told us we should be afraid of it. As a news organization, it’s our responsibility to share with you whatever facts and figures we have, even when no one knows quite what to make of them.

We shared numbers every day, of how many new cases, new deaths and newly labeled as recovered compared to the numbers we saw the day before. It helped offer a sense of how the virus spread in our area counties.

In that particular story, though, they were just numbers. Yet daily, internet commenters accused us of exaggerating the risk or underplaying the risk, on a story that only showed a number.

People never believe me when I say this, but I really don’t want to change your mind. I just want to give you facts that can help you make up your mind with the right data at your disposal. Sure, I have personal opinions about everything, but I try desperately to keep them to myself in doing my daily work. I don’t want them to influence the work we do at the newspaper.

Since we started sharing those numbers, obviously a lot has changed. We now know the survival rate of the virus is extremely high. We know the death rate is very low. We know that the virus mutated, mostly to less-serious forms of itself.

Most of all, now we know the numbers of new cases and numbers of deaths have slowed way down. We know we don’t have to be as scared as we once were. That’s why we made the decision to back down on what we printed in the limited space in our physical newspaper, updating readers once a week.

We intended to keep updating the statistics on a daily basis, since there were still roughly 750 people per day looking at that series of numbers. Then, on Thursday, the state announced it would only release the updated numbers once per week. That changed our plans, of course, since we can’t share a daily update that doesn’t exist.

That puts us where we are now. We’ll update those numbers once per week, on Fridays, since the Ohio Department of Health will update its numbers on Thursday afternoons. We’ll share the new numbers as quickly as we can and show you how they’ve changed compared to a week prior.

Again, we’re perfectly happy to let you read those numbers and make up your own mind with them. Maybe you’ll decide they’re meaningless. Maybe you’ll make decisions based on them. Whatever the result, it’s our job to share them with you, and we’ll continue to do our job.

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By David Trinko

The Lima News


See past columns by David Trinko at LimaOhio.com/tag/trinko.

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David Trinko is editor of The Lima News. Reach him at 567-242-0467, by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @Lima_Trinko.