Is it hysteria or news?

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How much information is too much information? Growing concern with the seriousness of the second wave of the H1N1 virus has touched off a nationwide debate on the media's handling of the situation and whether the news is fanning the flames of hysteria.
From the emergence of the first cases of H1N1 human swine flu last spring, the media's coverage of what the World Health Organization has already called a global pandemic has intensified, with the CBC reporting that more than 1,400 stories on the swine flu have been carried by the national media.
There's little doubt the flu is the foremost thing on the mind of the population and it's the one story almost everyone is talking about. The media may be fuelling this, or it may be doing what it's supposed to be doing - it's up for debate.
From just a few weeks ago, when polls indicated most Canadians would not get the H1N1 vaccination, to the point where people are on the verge of hysteria over the virus's second wave, the public is looking for all the information it can find on the subject.
Sometimes, however, in their race to cover the big story to its fullest, media outlets could be accused of going overboard. While it's what journalists are paid to do, sometimes even they have a difficult time separating the wheat from the chaff. It appears that if you throw enough information at the wall that which sticks will be the facts.
Then again, if Canadian media outlets were not covering the story and only giving it passing reference, many would accuse the media of not doing enough, or say it's part of some conspiracy to hide the truth.
The H1N1 virus is big news with hundreds of Canadians becoming ill on a daily basis. Fortunately, fatalities have been few, but they are a reminder that we as a population need to be prepared to prevent it from happening to ourselves and our loved ones. The media has a role to play in providing the latest information on what's happening, even if sometimes it appears to be going a little far. But it should not become the cheerleader for those saying the sky is falling, or for those who insist there's nothing to see here. It's the media's job to separate fact from fiction and calm the mass hysteria.

Organizations: World Health Organization, CBC

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