Tuesday, April 28, 2009
News Talk Online April 28, 2009: Striking A Balance In The Swine Flu Coverage
I can't listen to it any longer.
Some of the coverage, especially on cable TV, about the swine flu, is enough to make me - well - sick.
The breathless way such a potentially serious issue is being presented is unseemly. Can you imagine Walter Cronkite reporting the death of JFK this way?
What the hell has happened to news coverage that something that, on its own, is serious enough to warrant our full attention, needs to be hyped even more?
Some of the best coverage of the coverage can be found on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Which is on Comedy Central not CNN or Fox.
Some of the best coverage I've heard of the story itself has been on the BBC. I've heard some tough questions being asked by BBC radio presenters. But I've not been satisfied with all of the answers I've heard.
Today a BBC interviewer was pressing a World Health Organization spokesman to explain why closing off borders isn't such a good idea. His answers, it seems to me, defy logic.
As the interviewer pointed out in his follow up questions, the cases of swine flu that have occurred outside Mexico were introduced to those countries by people who had been visiting Mexico. So wouldn't it be prudent to shut down the border between the United States and Mexico?
The WHO spokesman pointed out that the border is porous which of course is an understatement. But that doesn't mean you can't minimize the threat.
And it is a threat, have no doubt about that. Because it is jumping from person to person. Meaning it can spread.
The Associated Press just released a piece that suggested that millions of people could die from the swine flu.
So what of the media coverage? Are you finding it informative or alarmist? Or, perhaps, both?
And what of the U.S. government's rejection of suggestions that the border with Mexico should be, at least temporarily, closed?
The fear I have is that once the genie is out of the bottle and this flu migrates in significant numbers it will be, obviously, too late.
The good news, thus far, of course is that the fatalities have been contained. But health officials have no explanation for the fact that, outside of Mexico, the swine flu cases have been milder than within its borders.
But do not lose sight of the fact that, unlike the deaths that typically occur with the "normal" flu strains, the fatalities in Mexico are not of the very old or the very young. Young, healthy people are dying. This may be the biggest factor that has public health officials worldwide fearing that the flu outbreak could soon become a pandemic.
We'll be discussing the media coverage and the government response to the swine flu at 5 PM New York time on News Talk Online on Paltalk.com
Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tukatuka/3480777512/