Swine flu media – maybe sensationalism doesn’t sell anymore

It’s a common rule that  in the media, fear sells and good news doesn’t. Or does it?  One of the things that may be changing is that sensationalism is no longer selling papers. These days, it’s just too easy to figure out what’s hype and what’s right. Perhaps the manner in which media is covering major  stories like the swine flu is going to determine who stays and who goes. I’ve always liked the Detroit Free Press. Their story on the first case of swine flu in Michigan was headed “Michigan Ready to Fight Swine Flu” with the subhead “Should swine flu spread in Michigan, state health officials will have 1.25 million doses of antiviral medication ready.” The New York Times moved swine flu to an inside page with a fairly objective report including the information that swine flu deaths in Mexico only totaled 16, not over 100 as originally reported. Let’s look at some of the other headlines from the past few days that may not be quite as objective: “New York Swine Flu Forces More Stadium Closures” –  New York Post “Airlines waiving change fees amid swine flu scare” – Atlanta Journal-Constitution “LIving with Swine Flu’s Uncertain Threat” – BBC News Our ability to see through the hype and do our own investigating online has made the sensationalist headlines much more transparent. One only has to read the tweetchat on swine flu on Twitter to see the cynicism riffling through the various tweets of other media links and disinformation. And I think media, in particular newspapers, that continue to try to sell through fear and sensationalism are the ones that are getting left in the dust. Print is losing readers across the board, everyone knows that. But perhaps one way to weed out those that just may succeed is by looking at who’s reporting responsibly and who’s still selling fear. According to a story in Wired that quotes numbers from the Audit Bureau of Circulations The New York Post’s circulation is down nearly 21% this year. Atlanta Journal-Constitution is down over 20% as well. And the Detroit Free-Press? Down, less than 6%.   The New York Times has lost just 3.5%. Guess what? I think responsible journalism is winning.