Monday, November 3, 2014
Ebola virus outbreak goes viral!
While I haven't devoted significant space on this blog to the news media, it is not because I do not have strong opinions on the current state of journalism. Indeed, I could write an entire blog on the subject, and many have.
News acquisition and analysis have always been important facets of my adult life. I spend many hours every week reading various newspapers and other materials to gain new perspectives on the issues of the day. Nearly every morning, I send items of interest to a close circle of friends and family. I read news and opinion, although sometimes it's hard to tell one from the other. I am always drawn to opinions that differ from my own. While there is excellent journalism today, the profession is deeply flawed by a blow-dried approach that appeals to our tabloid lust and their desire for increased ratings.
Just because it's above the fold on Page 1, doesn't mean it truly deserves this prime real estate. Pick up your own newspaper and see what the leading articles are. It's likely to be some local crime outbreak, while news that really matters is either a small item pages later, or may not appear at all.
Turn on CNN. Set your stopwatch to measure how many minutes it will take before the bright banner of BREAKING NEWS flashes across the screen. All that's left is for Wolf Blitzer to announce:
HERE’S A COMMERCIAL THAT YOU CAN’T MISS!!
How has the media performed with the Ebola issue? Poorly, in my judgment. First, the coverage has been absolutely suffocating on major TV stations and has been on Page 1 of newspapers for days now. Is this an important issue? Of course. Are there public health ramifications? Definitely. Has the media heightened public fear beyond the science? Without question.
When the media, particularly television, sinks their fangs into an issue, they will feed upon it until either the ratings start to ebb or some new fresh meat draws them away. Remember how CNN covered the Malaysian airplane disappearance?
While Ebola is clearly newsworthy, the number of infections and fatalities that have occurred here in the U.S. can be counted on one hand, with a few fingers to spare. My point is that the coverage has been disproportionate to other issues that have been sidelined, as the media routinely does.
• 30,000 Americans will die of flu this year
• 11,000 expected U.S. deaths by firearms this year.
• About 100 U.S. highway fatalities daily with a yearly estimate of 30,000 victims
Where's the proportionality? While every life is sacred, why are big stories buried and much smaller ones sensationalized? Last night, I came home and declared that my domicile would be an Ebola-free zone for the evening. This meant there would be no TV news for us. I feared that even turning on a random TV channel could violate my edict as Ebola coverage is omnipresent. To make sure that we were in compliance, we pursued a safe entertainment alternative. Netflix!
Ebola, a deadly virus, has gone viral in the press. The media, as always, perpetuates journalistic contagion. Maybe they should be quarantined?
This post by Michael Kirsch, MD, FACP, appeared at MD Whistleblower. Dr. Kirsch is a full time practicing physician and writer who addresses the joys and challenges of medical practice, including controversies in the doctor-patient relationship, medical ethics and measuring medical quality. When he's not writing, he's performing colonoscopies.
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Ira S. Nash, MD, FACP, is the senior vice president and executive director of the North Shore-LIJ Medical Group, and a professor of Cardiology and Population Health at Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine. He is Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Cardiovascular Diseases and was in the private practice of cardiology before joining the full-time faculty of Massachusetts General Hospital.
Zackary Berger, MD, ACP Member, is a primary care doctor and general internist in the Division of General Internal Medicine at Johns Hopkins. His research interests include doctor-patient communication, bioethics, and systematic reviews.
Controversies in Hospital
Run by three ACP Fellows, this blog ponders vexing issues in infection prevention and control, inside and outside the hospital. Daniel J Diekema, MD, FACP, practices infectious diseases, clinical microbiology, and hospital epidemiology in Iowa City, Iowa, splitting time between seeing patients with infectious diseases, diagnosing infections in the microbiology laboratory, and trying to prevent infections in the hospital. Michael B. Edmond, MD, FACP, is a hospital epidemiologist in Iowa City, IA, with a focus on understanding why infections occur in the hospital and ways to prevent these infections, and sees patients in the inpatient and outpatient settings. Eli N. Perencevich, MD, ACP Member, is an infectious disease physician and epidemiologist in Iowa City, Iowa, who studies methods to halt the spread of resistant bacteria in our hospitals (including novel ways to get everyone to wash their hands).
db's Medical Rants
Robert M. Centor, MD, FACP, contributes short essays contemplating medicine and the health care system.
Suneel Dhand, MD, ACP Member
Suneel Dhand, MD, ACP Member, is a practicing physician in Massachusetts. He has published numerous articles in clinical medicine, covering a wide range of specialty areas including; pulmonology, cardiology, endocrinology, hematology, and infectious disease. He has also authored chapters in the prestigious "5-Minute Clinical Consult" medical textbook. His other clinical interests include quality improvement, hospital safety, hospital utilization, and the use of technology in health care.
Juliet K. Mavromatis, MD, FACP, provides a conversation about health topics for patients and health professionals.
Dr. Mintz' Blog
Matthew Mintz, MD, FACP, has practiced internal medicine for more than a decade and is an Associate Professor of Medicine at an academic medical center on the East Coast. His time is split between teaching medical students and residents, and caring for patients.
Toni Brayer, MD, FACP, blogs about the rapid changes in science, medicine, health and healing in the 21st century.
Vineet Arora, MD, FACP, is Associate Program Director for the Internal Medicine Residency and Assistant Dean of Scholarship & Discovery at the Pritzker School of Medicine for the University of Chicago. Her education and research focus is on resident duty hours, patient handoffs, medical professionalism, and quality of hospital care. She is also an academic hospitalist.
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Michael Kirsch, MD, FACP, addresses the joys and challenges of medical practice, including controversies in the doctor-patient relationship, medical ethics and measuring medical quality. When he's not writing, he's performing colonoscopies.
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Other blogs of note:
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Also known as the Green Journal, the American Journal of Medicine publishes original clinical articles of interest to physicians in internal medicine and its subspecialities, both in academia and community-based practice.
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One of the most popular anonymous blogs written by an emergency room physician.