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Science in society – politics, development and social justice.

Reuters report US threat from Haiti cholera is low – phew.

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Now an owner of a smartphone, I receive my emails to my pocket. Reuters send me a morning digest newsletter each day. The fourth item of the 12/11/10 email, from a list of eight chosen stories from around the world, was under an unabashed headline: “Haiti cholera toll at 800, US risk seen low”. The article fits the title. It was accompanied by a stark photograph of a man face down in a filthy gutter, possibly one of the 800 dead.

David Daigle, a spokesman from the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, told Reuters: “Good sanitation which includes plumbing, separation of faecal wastes and similar measures, and access to safe drinking water in the United States would work against widespread transmission”. Thompson Reuters’ story, carried by outlets across the world and aggregators all over the web, is emblematic of a pervasive problem in the media. It is not ubiquitous but it is, at times, intolerable: the west is best and takes the lead in a story.

The parochialism of Western media is something Nick Davies talks about  in his book Flat Earth News. By giving the Haiti the US lead in its angle demonstrates a clear effort on the part of Reuters to fit its product to its clients.

It sounds rather like the ghastly tag added to an evening news  piece of a bus crash in Flanders (or whatever). Thirty-four dead; no Britons are thought to have been involved. Perhaps understandable for something that could well have involved your cousin on his way home from a school trip. By announcing the fact that no-one you may have quarrelled with over the height of your privet hedge snuffed it. By underlining it as if to say “don’t worry, they are all foreign…it is a shame though” makes a cruel mockery of the thirty-four families in mourning.

The dead from the Haitian cholera outbreak has topped 1,000, has spread to the second city, has prompted riots, and has shown no signs of transposing itself into the lives of the Floridians watching their neighbour’s horror on TV screens.

I would have to say fine if this was a local broadcaster’s story or perhaps an item on network news recounting a comment by a public servant. As we have seen this wire piece was relayed around the world. People in Taiwan are getting much the same news fodder as me. It is regional news sent around the world. The annoying fact is the main content of the article was interesting and pertinent – full of detail and information about the situation in Haiti. But it was framed by a headline that interested me not a bit and angered me plenty.


Written by nascenthack

November 22, 2010 at 3:53 pm

Posted in Disease, Media

Tagged with , , , ,

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