Sunday, April 26, 2009

Epidemic! Tune in at 11

One thing they teach you in PR... the news sets the agenda. And, I am of a mind that we should think of that more when we consumer the news.

Please bear in mind that I hold all types of journalism in high regard. By seeking out a variety of news outlets and viewpoints, I feel like I gain a better understanding of the world and the view of others. Today's richly diverse media world - with an emphasis on user-generated content - offers more opportunity than ever. All this said...

I cannot believe the sudden furor over swine flu. And I think it's all because of the news.

Friday is a notoriously slow news day. And this past Friday, the Drudge Report - possibly the most comprehensive news-gathering outlet that throws all judgment aside simply for sensationalism and right-wing pandering (and to great success, to Matt Drudge's credit) - threw up big red-letter panic about swine flu spreading... clearly to kill us all. The only surprise was that it didn't blame Obama for the outbreak (though I imagine we'll get to that this week).

Fast forward to tonight... and swine flu is here! At least you'd think so. You cannot escape reports on this. It could become a worldwide epidemic! It could kill thousands!

Mainly, though, for any number of advertiser-supported news outlets... it could raise our ratings!!

We all have to remember that news outlets, in this day and age need eyeballs. 24 hours a day. Take it from a former newsguy... it takes about 15 minutes to read a news story and then go read a few more to add depth and perspective. That's it. You don't need another 45 of people saying "what it all means." Especially if those folks are simply angling for book deals or, as some say colloquially, talking out their backsides.

Bottom line... we can remember the SARS panic. We were all at severe risk, you'll recall. And you know what? Nearly no one died and I have yet to meet someone who contracted the disease.

Could we be at the cusp of a flu epidemic? Absolutely. The magic of this, though... we're always at the cusp of a flu epidemic. It's the flu. It has never been cured. And people die of influenza every year.

I don't mean to be cynical, bu I lived in NYC for SARS and the annual mini-panic over West Nile virus. From what I can tell, contagious makes for great TV - and leads to a lot of people panicking.

I am sure the makers of Airborne will be doing a brisk business this week. Me? I am going to ignore the hype. I'm going to take my vitamins, continue to wash my hands when they are dirty enough that I feel they need washed and try to keep myself in decent shape.

Like always. And, ask my wife... I apparently do something right. I only get sick once or twice a year. And it's almost always a cold.

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