I apologize for the long title, but to me it needed each of the words to state the modus operandi of the mainstream news business in America. I was in a hospital waiting room for about two hours earlier this week, and while I read, the TV in the waiting room was tuned into one of the all news all day networks, this one beginning with a “C” and ending with two “N’s.” For the entire two hours, the coverage was around EBOLA, primarily in the US, with a little seasoning of where the greater risk is in West Africa or the big story that Nigeria is EBOLA free.
The night before on one of the prime time national news, this on beginning with an “A” and ending with a “C,” the network medical news advisor said the scare of EBOLA in the US is being blown out of proportion and we should take comfort in the family and friends exposed to the victim who traveled to Dallas are now out of quarantine without being infected and the two nurses who did catch the virus appear to be doing better. He added that people are blowing the likelihood of catching the disease out of proportion and we should be respectful of the seriousness of the disease, but not panic.
I like the good doctor’s last statement, but his network is one of the ones blowing it out of proportion. The all day news network lives for issues like this, so as evidenced by my hospital waiting room experience, will cover it ad nauseam and then cover it again. Of course, “fear sells” so both the news stations and politicians running for office have seized upon the issue to show how serious-minded they are. Of course, many of these are the same politicians who:
– allowed the sequestration cuts go into play which harmed funding of the NIH, which is charged with research and overseeing the development of new epidemics and drugs. If you recall, the sequestration cuts were a fall back that were supposed to be so severe, that even members of Congress would rationally come to a budget agreement, which of course, they did not.
– would not approve the President’s Surgeon General nominee, because the candidate had the temerity to mention that ungoverned guns kill people. So, we needed to appoint an EBOLA Czar to synergize efforts, as we are sans Surgeon General.
Ironically, I have not seen either of these items mentioned in news reports, yet this is where something could have been done. It is akin to Congress not passing a bi-partisan bill posed in the spring to begin to address the VA problems that have built over the years and then when the problems bubbled over in Phoenix and elsewhere, saying how could you let this happen? A lesser bill was passed in the summer which can only do tip of the iceberg stuff.
EBOLA is a news story, but playing to people’s fears and inflaming them is not coverage. It is like the local weather folks scaring people over a coming storm. The greater story is in West Africa. The greater story is how politicians can fail to act then ask “how could you let that happen?” when something goes wrong. You had a chance to do something well in advance Mr. Congressman, why did you not vote to address this issue when something proactively could be done. That is a question worth asking.