Sunday, May 28, 2006

Whatever happened to Bird Flu?

News journalism is a naughty business trading on our desire to live risk-free lives. Journalists are herd animals* and eagerly follow each other towards sensational stories and, equally quickly, dash away when the story-well seems to have run dry.

I worked in the IT department of an insurance company for a while and got to understand something of the trade. Insurance is essentially about sharing risk and insurance companies have become pretty adept at understanding risk. So they know, for example, how many two hundred thousand pound homes will be completely destroyed each year and therefore know how much to charge to insure against the risk.

But individuals are generally hopeless at assessing risk. Therefore stories of murderous villains, especially if they're foreigners, will stop people going out for evening strolls for fear of becoming a victim. Yet they'll happily jump in their car without giving a thought to the risk of dying in a car crash being about sixty times higher than that of being murdered by a stranger.

So Bird Flu was a gift to journalists for a while, the prospect of a plague on its way apparently to wipe most of us out (actually to increase the number of flu deaths by a few percentage points) made for wonderful stories. All sorts of 'instant experts' are on hand to expostulate, for a fee, about this (or any other) subject. But the caravan has moved on. No doubt unfortunate birds are still dying as are a tiny number of poultry workers overseas. But do we hear about it? Of course we don't.....

* radio journalists are also heard animals, ho ho.

3 Comments:

At 11:41, Anonymous Vanky said...

I wonder if ITV have had to dismantle their 'Bird Flu Incident Room'..?

 
At 14:24, Blogger Political Teenager said...

Fear sells papers...

 
At 12:29, Blogger Hughes Views said...

Welcome political teenager, please see also my 'Great British Press' post. And welcome back no longer teenage Vanky! I must ask my "friend" Jon Snow about the Room....

 

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