Duke University Professor Analyzes Media Coverage of Ebola Epidemic


This is Duke University. “You know, there’s one case in New York
and that’s it. We’re all doomed!” DURING A RECENT FORUM, DUKE ENGLISH PROFESSOR
PRISCILLA WALD ANALYZED THE MEDIA’S ROLE IN COVERING THE EBOLA EPIDEMIC.
WALD HAS STUDIED NUMEROUS PREVIOUS OUTBREAKS AND WROTE A BOOK CALLED Contagious: Cultures,
Carriers, and the Outbreak Narrative. “When we read headlines that compares Ebola
to ISIS or when we see a headline that says apocalypse! Or catastrophe! This epidemic
has not been a catastrophe in the United States.” WALD TOLD THE DUKE COMMUNITY ON HAND SOME
OF THOSE FRIGHTENING HEADLINES IN THE NEWS HAVE CREATED A SENSE OF PANIC AROUND THE COUNTRY. “It’s something without a cure, so it
becomes a species threatening event. Something that’s highly contagious, it’s quickly
moving around the globe. You see maps that trace the exponential spread of this disease.” AND THAT HYSTERIA CAN CREATE PROBLEMS. “Are people going to go to the emergency
room with every cold and flood the emergency room?” WALD SAYS THE LAST TIME THE AMERICAN PUBLIC
FELT SO ALARMED OVER A DISEASE WAS DURING THE SARS OUTBREAK IN 2002. “It was a disease people had never seen
before and didn’t know what it was. It was a disease that was spreading rapidly. That
one was airborne which Ebola is not. It is much easier to catch SARS than it is to catch
Ebola.” WITH EBOLA IN THE NEWS FOR QUITE A WHILE NOW,
WALD’S NOTICING A DIFFERENCE IN THE SUBSTANCE OF MANY NEWS REPORTS. “I do see one change. I see more and more
journalists cautioning against the fear.” WALD RECOGNIZES THAT EBOLA CANNOT BE IGNORED
IN THE NEWS AND REPORTERS MUST KEEP THE PUBLIC IN THE LOOP. “Very difficult to find the balance between
informing people and making people aware of something that is a threat, I mean this is
a disease that needs to be respected.” REPORTING FOR DUKE UNIVERSITY, I’M JULIE
SCHOONMAKER. Produced by Duke University.

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