Opinion: media spreading fear when it should be spreading information

Cassidy Alexander


After two Ebola scares in Jacksonville in the past two weeks alone, I think we should talk about what’s going on. Every major news outlet at the local and national level has been covering this, including the Florida Times-Union and CNN. It’s hard to tell whether people are sick of hearing about this, are finding some twisted enjoyment out of the turmoil, or are actually afraid of contracting the disease.

Either way, I think it’s time to calm down. Yes, it’s a potentially deadly disease, but it does not spread as easily as people fear. According to the World Health Organization, Ebola is transmitted via fluids, not through the air. The first symptoms include fever, fatigue, muscle pain, headache and sore throat, which appear between 2 and 21 days after exposure. There is no proven treatment for the disease.

Let me preface this by saying that I am not trying to downplay the significance of this outbreak. It’s a serious problem in West Africa. As of Oct. 24 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there have been 4,912 deaths from the disease in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia alone.

In the United States, there has been one death as of Oct. 24 according to the CDC. One death versus over 4,000. Instead of covering this serious and possibly globally devastating issue, news outlets were spending time tracking a hospital worker exposed to Ebola, who later went on a cruise, and a Texas nurse with the disease. This is ridiculous.

Instead of going on a wild goose chase around the country for potential cases and spreading fear, we need to focus on what we can do to stop the actual epidemic in Africa. Or does 4,912 deaths mean nothing to us?

This is a problem constantly seen in today’s media: taking an issue of actual importance and beating it to death with excessive coverage of every possible detail and leaving people with two options– responding with indifference, or fear. This tactic comes from the idea that people can only care about a topic if they are bombarded with information and threatened with a horrible outcome.

This is a dangerous and insulting way to think. I have faith that Americans have an attention span that’s broader than a teaspoon and can care about what’s happening in other countries. Don’t fall trap to the western-centric reporting of popular media, and realize that this is actually a deeper issue with global impact.

Walking around campus, it’s easy to forget the magnitude of this problem. People are constantly cracking jokes about the disease as an unfortunate by-product of the endless and sub-par coverage. I’m sorry that the media is doing such a poor job and manufacturing needless fear in Americans. But before you make the decision to tune out that coverage, consider other countries where that fear is a reality.

Email Cassidy Alexander at [email protected]