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Preemptive Strike: A Different Type of News Coverage of Bird Flu
Health journalism is often about crises. Here's a story about officials working to prevent one.
The article relies almost entirely on information from a World Health Organization specialist, who has a medical background and seems to span the gap between the medical and public health realms that Petya Eckler talked about in her lecture. The article does not provide other perspectives, which makes me wonder whether there is largely consensus on this topic or if there are prominent differing opinions from other medical or public health professionals that just aren't mentioned.
The article's statistics are in terms of incidence rather than prevalence. Prevalence might be more relevant in this story, since the point is many Egyptians could already have the virus without knowing it. However, it's probably difficult to estimate the prevalence of a rather new-and therefore not extensively researched-disease like the bird flu.
One question I had was about the status of the bird flu today: which countries are most affected and to what extent? How have the virus's patterns changed since the media blitz died down? The article doesn't answer these questions, presumably because of space limitations. However, I think this information would have made for a more complete report with better context.
The article mentions a rise in infected children, an angle that some reporters might be tempted to emphasize in an effort to "humanize" the story. I think this is a case where this sort of "humanization" was correctly avoided, because the main point is not that helpless victims exist, but rather the opposite: the public health officials are taking a proactive approach. I think a straight news story works well for this topic, but if a reporter should want to humanize it, s/he should focus on one of the disease specialists rather than the victims.