The headlines for a New York Times article said it all: “Churches Were Eager to Reopen. Now They Are a Major Source of Coronavirus Cases.” It’s a scary headline, that isn’t even close to being accurate.
Tim Challis, in a blog, started with the numbers in the story. It talks about 650 coronavirus cases from nearly 40 churches. That’s not many, especially when you realized that nearly half of the cases come from one church in Oregon, that was acting irresponsibly.
But put these numbers in context. There are 3 million coronavirus cases in America. The 650 listed in the article represents roughly .02 percent of the total. And the 40 churches mentioned seem very small when you assume that there are more than 300,000 churches in America.
Ed Stetzer went even further, to list five issues with the New York Times article. First, churches have cooperated and have been remarkable partners. Second, hyperbole helps no one. Using words like “major” and “erupted” to describe 650 cases is obviously misleading.
Third, the article understated the obvious. A large number of infections are linked to one single church that ignored all the CDC guidelines. Fourth, this kind of article causes people to dismiss important information. He is a subscriber to the New York Times and believes that good journalism needs context.
Finally, the article misses the point. If you read the article carefully you will come to the opposite conclusion of the headline. Sure, there are a few churches that have made bad decisions. But most churches seem to be acting responsibly in the midst of this pandemic.
Most readers probably just read the headline or maybe the opening paragraph. Others merely saw the link to the article in the Drudge Report with the ominous headline “Churches Now Major Source of Spread.” This was a classic example of “fake news.