STAFF EDITORIAL-Mind Your Business: News Should Affect More


Many local news outlets covered the alleged “outbreak” with similar headlines instead of reporting on larger issues within the community.

Editor’s Note: Content below has been changed to better clarify the stance of the Pirates’ Log and kcpipernews staff. The original story was missing some details that we believe are pertinent to our statement. We as a publication understand the severity that eight COVID-19 cases have. However, we stand by our statement that the local coverage was unwarranted.  

On Sept. 28, the Kansas City Star and many other large local news sources like KMBC, FOX 4 News and more wrote a news article about Piper High School’s homecoming, and the eight confirmed COVID-19 cases following. As a student news organization, we feel that this is inappropriate, unprofessional, and non-newsworthy. 

While eight cases is a significant number for an outbreak, all students at Piper High School were notified via email Monday, Sept. 20 of the positive case identified at homecoming. An issue that we see of the media coverage of the COVID-19 case was a week after the fact, and all of the people involved were already notified, meaning that the portion of the local news outlet’s audience that would be affected by this outbreak were already informed.

A feeble attempt was made to explain any further circumstances of the dance besides that it was held. By asking a single student, reporters would find that masks were required (while not everyone followed, which would not be different than any indoor concert or event), the dance was moved to a larger space to accommodate social distancing and it was recommended to everyone who attended that they should get tested.

Piper High School is one 5A school out of hundreds in the greater KC metro area. The community around Piper consists of only 12,685 people, according to the 2019 American Community Survey data, which is put out by the US Census Bureau. That is in comparison to the 2.15 million people living in the KC Metro area. That means that Piper’s population makes up only 0.0058% of the Star’s target audience. 

This raises the question of why. Why focus on one school with less than .1% of the target demographic, when there are so many other issues going on with other schools. If these larger news corporations would like to get involved with local school districts and organizations, why don’t they start by highlighting our achievements instead of pointing out insignificant faults?

The Wyandotte Health Department reported that eight cases came out of the homecoming dance. That is eight cases out of the hundreds upon hundreds around the city. So once again we ask, how is this newsworthy? How are eight cases at one high school in KCK newsworthy to large corporate news sites with a total audience of 2.15 million? 

Student’s are statistically more likely to be infected with COVID-19 through a typical school day. At any given moment, an outsider could walk into the school and find overcrowded classrooms with up to 30 or more students, some with masks half down, and next to no social distancing possible.

Modern news sources need to reevaluate the stories they write and how they choose what stories are written. Media today has become more about clicks and ad revenue than reporting what needs to be covered. As student journalists, the decline of the journalism industry as an art and as a trade is both saddening and infuriating. The purpose of the media is to report facts and inform whole target audiences of what they need to know. The way this story was presented, and the scale at which it was presented disregards both of these things. 

The Pirates’ Log felt it was unnewsworthy because of how the administration made sure to reach out as soon as they knew of the positive case, and there was conversations on local social media platforms. There is already controversy on media literacy and trust of media outlets. The internet is a vast pit of accurate and inaccurate information, and the average person does not know how to navigate it. 

Furthermore, to add insult to injury, the way this was presented from the start was unprofessional and inappropriate. In the source of the article, a tweet from the Unified Government Health Department used the hashtag “#PiperProud” to report that these cases had transpired. The Unified Government, whose only job is to report fact-based material to their community, used the hashtag at the beginning of the statement which made it feel like they were making a mockery of a very serious situation. 

In the Kansas City Star’s article on the incident, the school’s web page is linked. Usually, in journalism, the only things hyperlinked are outside sources and further information. Attaching our district’s site shows one of two things: either the Star acknowledges that Piper is not well-known to their audience, or they intend to further stir the pot. As journalists, this is not okay. We are here to report the news, not stir drama. 

Other schools are also holding homecoming dances where the risks is potentially higher due to more relaxed protocols, and Piper should not be faulted for consistently reporting their numbers. In fact, superintendent Dr. Jessica Dain sends out a district-wide update every Tuesday reporting COVID-19 cases in all buildings.

It is because of reasons like this that distrust in the media is further spread. Journalists reporting on petty and non-newsworthy content when there is so much out there to touch on reduces the media to nothing more than a drama tabloid in the public eyes. If journalism as a whole does not take a sharp turn for the better soon, we will be no more trusted than uncited propaganda sites on Facebook.