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Is all this Ebola coverage really just media hype?

Courtesy NIAID

The Associated Press has said it won't be reporting every instance in which an individual is tested for Ebola. The goal of the media should not be to create undue fear among the population. How much of the reporting out there is helpful, how much is creating panic? Missouri School of Journalism professors Earnest Perry, Mike McKean and Amy Simons discuss the issue.

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The coverage of the Ebola outbreak is everywhere.

With the confirmation that Nina Pham, another nurse, contracted the virus while treating Thomas Duncan in a Dallas hospital, there is a swath of new stories coming to light. 

One of these stories was about a patient at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, Kansas. The hospital held a press conference Monday to announce that it was testing a patient for Ebola after rumors began to spread on social media.


Although many news organizations are trying to avoid covering every Ebola scare, Professor Mike McKean said reporters made the right decision to cover the press conference because the public already knew and was concerned about the patient in Kansas. 

"There's a lot of concern among the public that what the government tells us may not be the last word on our safety. So I think the media have to at least report those things."

McKean said there are many other parts of the Ebola story that journalists need to cover, including whether or not the American medical system is knowledgeable about how to treat the virus.

Not only can too many stories on Ebola in the United States create unnecessary fear, Professor Earnest Perry said these stories distract from the real problem.

"We're spending a lot of time covering those cases [in America and Europe] and we're not talking about where the epicenter is in western Africa.

Perry said American journalists need to look at how countries like Nigeria are successfully containing the cases of Ebola within their borders, as well as reevaluate why Liberia is having such a hard time controlling the deadly virus.

Hope Kirwan left KBIA in September 2015.
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