Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Breaking Panic! (I mean, News!) The Perils of 24/7 Reporting

The swine flu -- over-taking our planet!  Don your masks!  Avoid human contact!  Stock your food supplies!

24/7 news channels -- and incessant Internet "news" updates (breaking news alerts!  Twitters, you name it) -- have led us to being at risk of becoming a global community of panic.  With little else to report, these "news" outlets -- and the people who use them -- focused on one-upping each other with the most up-to-date graphics about the latest swine flu case.  First, Mexico.  Then, the U.S.  Then, Spain.  Then, in a home or school near you!  But, somewhat sheeplishly, the word is starting to trickle out -- with much less "breaking news" gravitas -- that perhaps everyone over-reacted.  That the swine flu pandemic may be no more dangerous than the common flu.  Remember, our run of the mill flu kills 36,000 people in the U.S. every year (yet, thus far, only one death attributed to the swine flu in the U.S.)  

Don't get me wrong, I am not minimizing the need for caution and concern for our kids, our friends, our colleagues, and ourselves -- and certainly don't mean to minimize the importance of every life.  But, as soon as the swine flu panic hit -- and it hit hard as a direct result of these news outlets -- I immediately discounted what I heard.  Too much reporting.  Too much speculation.  Too much panic.  Too many masks.  Simply too much of everything.

That's the problem of course.  These news outlets need to fill their 24/7 cycles with "breaking news" -- even if it isn't.  The Internet is not helping matters in this case.  And, sadly, too many people -- including the elderly -- spend far too much time watching the world crumble around them (which is the perception one gets if incessantly watching those news channels and receiving constant "breaking news" alerts).  

"Breaking news" has its place of course -- and I too subscribe to Internet "breaking news" headlines.  But, too much of anything may be dangerous to your health ... and you can't wear a mask for that!