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IT'S OUR TURN: Learning from our mistakes

Since writing the story in the Sept. 4 Enterprise about healthcare workers at CHI St. Joseph’s Health who contacted us to share their concerns about the Nov. 1 vaccine mandate, I have had time to reflect on comments in letters to the editor and others from people who called to express their concerns. As a result, I have learned some valuable lessons.

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When I wrote the story, my focus was sharing reasons the nurses had for not wanting to be vaccinated under the mandate. Hindsight is 20/20, and I realize now that focus was too narrow and only showed part of the picture.

I apologized to Sonja Day and Ben Koppelman at CHI St. Joseph’s Health for not giving them the opportunity to respond to comments made by their staff. They wrote an article addressing these concerns for the front page of the Sept. 11 paper, since the Sept. 8 paper had already gone to press due to an early Labor Day deadline.

The second thing I learned was that, as journalists, we need to provide factual information to counteract statements people make during interviews – even when we are stating their beliefs and reasons for a decision accurately. That is why we ran a correction including information from the CDC stating the vaccine is safe during pregnancy and fetal cells are not in the vaccine.

The third thing I learned was that there is still a lot of division in this community over the COVID-19 vaccine. Some people are convinced it is the way to end the pandemic, while others disagree and believe people should not be pressured to be vaccinated against their personal beliefs.

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The fourth thing I learned was that, even in the medical community, information about COVID is evolving. One doctor I interviewed about COVID vaccine myths pointed out that medical journals can have different interpretations of the same research data. In addition, recommendations and best practices are changing as our understanding of the virus and its variants change.

Perhaps the most important lesson came from a woman who called to express her concerns in a kind and understanding way. She pointed out it is the role of the newspaper to educate people because even healthcare professionals may not always have accurate information.

At the end of our conversation, she thanked me for listening to her concerns, writing a front-page story about COVID-19 vaccine myths and having a correction with the story online and in the paper. She reassured me that she wasn’t calling to be negative and hopes this will be a learning experience because we are all learning and growing.

“Keep shining light on the darkness,” she said, and that is my goal moving forward.

Opinion by Lorie Skarpness
Lorie Skarpness has lived in the Park Rapids area since 1997 and has been writing for the Park Rapids Enterprise since 2017. She enjoys writing features about the people and wildlife who call the north woods home.
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