[Letters] Media’s role in new flu fears
Media companies are competitively broadcasting and highlighting the number of new A(H1N1) patients and casualties. Not only that, the news about the deaths of teenagers and people in their 20s is threatening the whole society. While rumors are being spread through mobile phones and the Internet, the mass media seems to be supporting the wave of anxiety. Exaggerated fear makes it harder to deal with the new flu. This is because the government has no choice but to feel pressured by the public opinion. Also, the fear of citizens negatively affects normal economic activities such as shopping and traveling.
Of course, the media’s role is to accurately report facts. However, in cases like the new flu where the reporting has given no clue about its development or progress, I think journalists need to be more cautious.
When the mass media spreads fear, the side effects can be serious. Recently, authorities have decided to expand the prescription of the anti-virus drug Tamiflu to doubted patients at private hospitals and general pharmacies.
This seems to be because public opinion pressured the government to do so. However, many medical experts are anxious about people becoming resistant to the medicine and the abuse of Tamiflu. Thus, they claim that prescriptions to qualified patients is the better way.
In the case of neighboring Japan, media companies are very careful when reporting about H1N1. Students and citizens are calmly reacting to the flu by wearing masks and keeping themselves hygienic.
This contrasts clearly to us, who are confused by the some problems like high school third years’ anxiety, temporary school closure and the rumors about the vaccine’s effectiveness.
On any issues, public opinion is not absolutely correct, especially when the opinion is distorted by overstated fear. When it comes to cases without any precedent like the new flu, experts’ solutions are the best ones to be trusted. I believe that media should be more prudent in listening to their own opinions and releasing the news.
Cho Won-shik, Yangchung High School