“It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into”

Jonathan Swift
"The Democrats have moved to the right, and the right has moved into a mental hospital." - Bill Maher
"The city is crowded my friends are away and I'm on my own
It's too hot to handle so I gotta get up and go

It's a cruel ... cruel summer"

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Swine Flu and the Local Media

At about 6 p.m. yesterday, the city of Amarillo public information officer called my cell to tell me of a 7 p.m. news conference about the swine flu at City Hall. When I asked about the content of the announcement, that is, I asked if had there been cases discovered, she said she didn't know. She was told simply to call to let media members know of the news conference.

The Indy had scheduled a long-standing training session ahead of launching a new Web site and didn't have anyone we could spring to cover the news conference. Further, without some information about the content, I felt the city was manipulating the media. I predicted that the announcement would be a non-event either announcing possible cases or announcing there were no cases but we still made it to wash our hands and cover our mouth when we sneeze.

So as I scanned the Amarillo Globe-News Web site last night, I find I was right: It was a non-event. Possible cases? Samples sent to laboratories? Why didn't they just tell us they're a bunch of people in town sneezing, having sore throats and running a slight fever. Good grief, we had a long choir practice last night and I woke up with a sore throat. Should I run out and get a quick test?

This morning as I scanned the local media Web sites, the Globe-News writes an extensive story about it; but, Channel 7's Web site takes a more moderate approach to the story.

I am finding myself very perplexed by the scope and nature of the coverage. I wonder to what degree the media are contributing or creating a problem by scaring the public. I wonder to what degree the public health "authorities" are overreacting to this in the United States.

When I was at the Globe-News, one of the editors talked about how the newspaper handles stories. In this case it was first the Katrina and then Rita evacuees, but it seems to apply to any story the newspaper thinks is "big." He said, "We are going to write about this, and write about this, and write about this until there is absolutely nothing more to write about. And then we're going to write some more."

I'd be curious to know to what degree people think the media are overreacting, the public health authorities are over reacting and if this disease is that serious that these reactions are justified.