People are blowing this out of proportion says the people blowing it out of proportion

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.


14 thoughts on “People are blowing this out of proportion says the people blowing it out of proportion

  1. The news media has long since given up any claim to objectivity, or rational reporting, or even truthful reporting. As you note, they are playing into the fear game, and giving out of control politicians even more ridiculous sound bites. Janet Napolte (sp), former head of the TSA, had an interview this last weekend blasting congress and their investigation panel for wasting time of the CDC director with their stupid questions and posturing for the cameras.

    But don’t let most Americans off the hook, either. The CNN’s, Fox’s, and networks of the world wouldn’t be playing this up 24/7 if our stupid citizens weren’t lapping it up.

    Good post

    • Thanks for your comment. I agree with Janet N about wasting time with the CDC director, especially when it is grandstanding. If it were true governance, that would be different. It would have been great if he had said, “May I ask a question, why did have you not appointed the Surgeon General and why have you cut funding to the NIH?

      I wonder what the ratings are for these news shows. My guess is CNN ratings go up during a crisis, which is the reason to play the crisis card longer. Fox does better when the Democrats are doing well with an issue, since Republicans need to be told their own version of the truth, to make them feel better. When Obama does something they agree with, it is usually modified with a “he should have done it sooner” or “he did not go far enough.”

  2. I, long ago, came to an understanding that there simply is no longer anything that can be called “news”. In today’s world of instant gratification and people knowing about every event the instant that it takes place there, literally, is no news.

    They can call it “news” but everything we see in the media is a product that is being sold for its entertainment value. What used to be news is now a commodity … a product to be bought and sold like any other.

    There are no true journalists seeking the truth behind the hard-hitting narratives of today because every person with a smart phone is capturing, if not creating, the stories that previous generations found newsworthy.

    So when they find a germ or a storm that might scare some folks they’ll sell as much of it as they can for as long as folks will buy it.

    Great post. And lots of food for thought!

    • Thanks for reading and commenting. It is not ironic the most impactful stories seem to have been broken by news organizations outside the US. The true journalists state-side are a small group who have to spend significant efforts to get their stories heard. The New York Times columnist who first broke the story about the NSA post 9-11 had to sit on the story for a year because the Bush White House pressured the publisher. The publisher only allowed him to print it when he was going to publish the story in a book.

      In our fast paced, mobile internet age, information is in abundance, but very few take the time to analyze the information to ferret out what it means, what is wrong information and what is misinformation. There is an old line from the movie “Who Shot Liberty Valance?” when the reporter tears up the real story and says “when the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” We have too many willing to print the legend. Thanks for your comments and your post on the same topic.

  3. I just ran across a poster that says, “More Americans have been married to Kim Kardashian than have died from Ebola.” Bet we’ll never see that on the news feeds.

    • Very true. There was a great comment that Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward said to today about Ben Bradlee, their famous editor who died yesterday. Bradlee kept telling them to “slow down and make sure we get this right.” They said the advice runs counter to today’s world, where speed of information is valued more than accuracy. Or, like my daughter and I discussed just this morning, it is hard to get context into 140 characters. Thanks for commenting, BTG

  4. Note: My daughter shared with me a tweet that is making the rounds. It says, in essence,
    EBOLA seems to be contracted in the US by people who are helping others. In that case, if you are not helping anyone, you are safe.

  5. when in the states, i received ‘overdoses’ in many things… the replay of the same news feeds all day long amazed me, but what amazed me more were the people who had their televisions tuned to those stations as ‘background’ sounds… even when sleeping, they had the television on mute but rolling the same news stories over and over and over again…. there’s no wonder why my pulse doubled while there!

    • We have become a superficial bunch with many avoiding news altogether. Local news is primarily weather, sports, murders and traffic. The CNN EBOLA coverage reminded me of the weather people who scare you with approaching storms of doom.

      • i have to admit that my inner alarms sounded when i was flying ‘united’ a few days after the infected person was diagnosed after flying the same airline.. just how does one fumigate a plane when one is not sure how this virus keeps escaping under extreme sterile conditions….

        aside from that, i was amazed at how the television news stories stayed on ‘repeat’ function all day long…. what ever happened to people stopping at the end of the day to watch the news at a certain hour, then they had time to digest it, discuss it, then resume a normal life? the television seems to preside over the day and night, leaving ‘us’ little time to think for ourselves.

      • Z, we should have a healthy respect and fear of EBOLA. I think many have gone beyond that to cause panic for voters, ratings for TV (CNN is now known for this), and make it more difficult than easier. I would listen to the nurses, more than politicians. I find it funny that people claim the EBOLA Czar is not a doctor. Well, Congress why did you not approve our Surgeon General? It was because he said something in his past about guns and the NRA did not like it. And, we have more dead kids from guns and more suicides. Sorry for the tangent, but the NRA has killed more Americans than EBOLA has with their position against reasonable gun law governance. Thanks for your comments, BTG

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