UChic Hot Topics: The media

This month’s outbreak of the swine flu may have seemed like a possible pandemic, but luckily it wasn’t.

Only one American died in the aftermath of the quickly spreading disease and though over 20 Mexicans died, the numbers aren’t that alarming. According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, 83 flu-related deaths occurred in 2008 from “normal” flu cases.

Though it was admirable how many hospitals and school systems stepped up to educate and attempt to prevent the swine flu, it became increasingly obvious how much the media exaggerated the issue. While the virus could have spread and infected many more, there was definitely too much coverage of the swine flu.

What’s sad is the beast that 24/7 news has created. Despite its convenience for viewers to be able to flip on the television at practically any hour and find out what’s going on, editors and producers alike are stretching to find content.

This is not the first time this has happened either. Does anyone remember when the US Airways plane crashed into the Hudson River in January? I sure do because there was non-stop coverage of the event on all the major cable networks for hours. Even after the victims were rescued, the camera was focused on an empty plane floating on a river for hours afterward. Was that necessary? Was it also necessary for many major news outlets to have at least four stories about the swine flu leading on their Web sites?

The answer is no. None of that is necessary. This is the beginning of a slippery slope for journalism. Media outlets can’t produce quality journalism if they feel they constantly need to keep up with the competition.

I’m sure some producers didn’t feel the need to report so heavily on the topic, but because everybody else and their brother was, they felt they had to avoid losing profits. Though I wish journalists could just report on what’s important and focus on dispersing the truth, the sad reality is that journalists need to make a profit, too.

News is a business and unfortunately it is becoming a beast that is becoming harder and harder to tame.

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