Columnist: Some coverage of H1N1 over the top

Los Angeles Times columnist James Rainey reviews recent coverage of the spread of H1N1, finding that while many stories tried to keep things in perspective, some reporters, especially those on television or with a particular agenda to advance, may have gone beyond the facts.

While most news outlets strive mightily to strike the right balance — spreading information about a public health concern, while tamping down alarm — others seem to have a congenital inability to tell this story with precision or proportion.

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Television in particular can struggle with a story like this, when reporters and news anchors muddle along, untethered for hours in the vast space-time continuum created by the Web and cable TV.

Desperate to fill to the top of the hour and armed with little clarity — no one can say for certain how prolonged or deadly this flu episode will be — some newsies can’t stop spinning. And conjuring a frightening reality that isn’t quite real.

He also points to those, such as bloggers and “talk radio gozzleheads,” who the flu news to advance their own causes or prejudices, like the people who advocate closing the Mexican border despite public health experts’ contention that it wouldn’t make a difference.

Rainey does take the opportunity to educate the reader about what a pandemic is and points out some news coverage that was more measured in its approach.

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