The Fear Factor in News Reporting

2000px-Biohazard.svgNBC recently released a story about the flu virus targeting parents of young children. The video opens with a little boy in the doctor’s office with the words “63 children have died” flashing ominously at the bottom of the screen.

This type of news reporting that seeks to elicit fear in unsuspecting watchers is nothing uncommon. It is loosely referred to as “Bad News bias” as outlined by Rhetorica. This type of news story is structured for exactly this reason: to make audiences worry. An article for Psychology Today titled If It Bleeds, It Leads analyzes this kind of bias in media claiming that “Fear-based news stories prey on the anxieties we all have and then hold us hostage.”

NBC’s story, A Pediatrician’s Tips On Protecting Your Family From Flu, offers a few pieces of advice that are hardly helpful at reducing the number of individuals who could potentially be infected by the virus with “tips” such as, “Sneeze down your shirt,” and “Kiss your children on their heads and not their faces.” Instead of actually offering advice to worried parents, NBC seems to be playing off of the already existing fears of families by providing detailed and terrifying stories of children passing from this virus such as, “14-year-old dies from the flu,” “Little girl is on life support for a week due to flu,” and “The CDC says at this rate 43 million people could get the flu this season.”

Is NBC’s Bad News bias seeming to make the world out to be more sinister than it really is? Or, should we all be worried about a very real epidemic sweeping through the nation?

Considering that I myself am dealing with the loss of a loved one this month due to the virus, it is hard to say…

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