SCIOTO- Throughout the course of the year-plus pandemic, more than 5,700 Facebook users have received daily notifications on the coronavirus through one group.
Using coverage from local outlets such as the Portsmouth Daily Times and posts from Scioto County Emergency Management Agency Director Larry Mullins, Scioto Corona has served as a one-stop-shop for area residents to take in the latest COVID-19 news as close as Washington Street to places across the globe.
Frank Thompson, a retired Valley High School English teacher of 27 years, started the group on St. Patrick’s Day last year. His quest, he told the Times, has not been to find a pot of gold but rather to be a beacon of truth.
“My initial thought was the county is a small, rural population that needed a repository of information about COVID-19,” Thompson said. “When COVID-19 hit, I thought, ‘Well, I didn’t see a local group,’ and in fact, I was wondering exactly where to find quick information. People respond quickly and so I thought this might be a chance for timely posts.”
Providing truthful information is a two-pronged approach for him and the group’s moderators- Sheri Thomas, Thompson’s daughter, and Michelle Martin- which requires finding trusted sources while dispelling notions of misinformation.
Sometimes tackling misinformation meant taking political stances, a move that Thompson believes upset some and caused a few members to ultimately leave. The issue of critiquing former President Donald Trump, done through sharing articles and sharing his own blog “All Things Wildly Considered,” proved to be a sensitive matter for some.
“I thought he mismanaged the crisis and was actually giving out a lot of misinformation and acted too slowly,” he said. “I believe in activism, so my point is where we are with the vaccines today. I don’t give too much credit.”
Thompson understands that the posts gave those on the other side of the aisle frustration, but it is not a matter of regret for him. Instead, it is holding true to his personal morals.
“The thing is am I going to be a hypocrite?” he asked. “I am here to post information that you can at least read about what’s going on. I’m not asking you to believe any certain viewpoint, but I am asking you to investigate.”
When asked their reason for joining the group, most respondents said they were attracted to Scioto Corona’s mission.
“I joined because Frank Thompson promised to share evidence based information and oversee the sight for negativity and misinformation. He has done a difficult job well! Thanks, Frank!” said Dawn Richards in a Facebook post, replying to the question. “It’s an opportunity for our community to find and share up to date information along with useful suggestions to deal with the challenges and stressful effects of the pandemic. I’ve made a few new friends here as well!”
“I joined because articles posted by administrators are science based,” added Donna Kay Kerecz. “I still check those facts…but this group is an excellent starting point.”
Thompson has had prior success with Facebook groups, originally starting the Fix the Scioto County Problem of Drug Abuse, Misuse, & Overdose group in 2009 that attracted similar numbers of members. Beyond its online presence, the group led protests against the pill mills in Portsmouth.
In many ways, Thompson said his role as group administrator does not differentiate from his teaching job that he retired from in 2001. Both of the groups have allowed him to continue an educative mission and his passion for writing.
“I was an advocate with my students in searching for the truth. In other words, don’t be satisfied with your opinion,” Thompson said, attending Miami University’s Ohio Writing Project before attending Ohio University for his master’s degree. “You have to look at the other sides to write a good argumentative essay. If you can’t defeat the other side’s arguments, you’ll probably change your mind about the side you take on an issue.”
Reach Patrick Keck (740)-353-3101 ext. 1931, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @pkeckreporter.
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