3 June 2011

Doomed! We're all doomed! - Or are we?

If you were to glance at the front pages of some of the newspapers this morning, you'd be forgiven for feeling at best a slight frisson of fear, at worst convinced the country was doomed to an epidemic worse than Swine 'Flu, more deadly than MRSA! 

E.coli is not about to strike us all down!

Here we're treated to another series of vivid, raucous headlines full of hyperbole and little or no substance.

The Express, perhaps is the least frightening, but only because its readers have surely become immune to the sensational headlines, behind which lies not a lot of truth?

The Daily Mail, too, is only slightly less guilty than the Express of composing misleading headlines above often much more innocuous pieces.

"Mutant E.coli is in Britain: Seven victims in UK have new contagious strain that's killed 18"

But the Telegraph? Surely the Telegraph is more accurate and serious in its reporting?

"As seven cases of the food poisoning bacteria were diagnosed in Britain, the agency said that the mutant strain was so virulent that sufferers risked spreading the infection to friends and relations through close contact." 

These three examples are some of the worst displays of sensationalism and scaremongering found on a very quick trawl through the available headlines today.

Nowhere in those frightening headlines do those papers mention that the people with the E. coli infection in Britain were infected on very recent visits to Germany, not here. We are misled; encouraged to believe that the seven people in Britain with the disease contracted it here. 

This deliberate inaccuracy is dangerous. As well as encouraging irrational fear in the population, it will possibly badly affect the sales of fresh vegetables grown or imported by already beleaguered food producers and increase the number of time-consuming calls on doctors and health workers for advice.

This dishonesty may sell papers, but what does it do for the readers? Don't readers and the general public deserve the truth?