Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The News

Once again the "news" strikes again with misleading headlines and sound bites.

On the local NBC news - "Toddler in Houston first U.S. Swine Flu Death"
On the Today Show - Basically the same sound bite
On AOL - "Toddler in Texas dies of the Swine Flu"

So, I'm thinking the swine flu is alive and well in Houston.

The rest of the story - on "Mexican Toddler is first U.S. Swine Flu fatality" The MSNBC home page goes on to say that the child came to Houston for treatment. The story explains that the child recently traveled from Mexico to Brownsville, became ill and came to Houston for treatment.

It's tragic that a child has died. My heart goes out to his family.

The impression I had from the multiple "breaking news" interruptions by the local NBC affiliate was that a Houston child had died from the disease. In terms of progression of the swine flu situation, a child who recently came from Mexico, got sick and came to Houston and died is very different from a child who lives in Houston contracting the disease and dying. You wouldn't know the whole story, if all you heard was the soundbites. I had to wait until 9:10 a.m. (over an hour) for a local press conference to hear that child was a resident of Mexico, recently arrived in the U.S.

At times like this, it is so important for the media to do responsible reporting. It's critical to keep the public informed, not create a panic. My biggest fear is that the media is going to sensationalize things early on so much that if things really get bad, no one is going to believe them.

Again, the really important thing in this story is that a child has died and that is a tragedy. My condolences to his family.


Trix in the City said...

Well good to know! My understanding from what I read earlier this morning was that it was a Houston baby too! I was wondering why everyone wasn't going into extreme panic mode here!

Bee said...

I agree. They just reported that a factory in Des Plaines called the health department because people were calling in sick. Now everybody is going to be walking around with face masks here.