is it possible for a news item nowadays to be anything other than
plain dead or hysterically reported?
we've seen the gadzooks reports about Climate Change (or not), about banning flights during the Icelandic Eruption/Ash Cloud, and now its the H1N1 pandemic - the metareport is that it was over-reaction
Ask yourself this:
If climate change is true and we dont do anything, and Manhatten and Amsterdam are underwater in 2050, what will the papers say then?
Ask yourself this: if one single plane crashes with ash-clogged engines, and the airline goes broke under a class action because their insurance wont pay up, and everyone who flew on other planes sues because f post-traumatic stress, what then?
And given H1N1 is replacing the other flu virus as the most likely candidate for the seasonal flu this coming winter, what if we hadn't prepared at all? What would the public, the community or journalists write?
Anyhow, the lesson is this - we now have a global media which has positive feedback loops between components all around the planet. There is simply no mechanism to break the loop so that any story that has the least interest simply magnifies in the echo-chamber, the hall fall of mirrors, the lasing chamber that is the Inter-web.
This is bad - there's only the next story, and the next that kill previous stories, not any refutation or simple boredom.
In some cases (e.g. reporting suicides) there used to be reporting conventions (started by the CDC) because it was recognized that epidemics of suicide were triggered by over-emotional reporting. This has (fairly recently in the UK) died, and in fact in the case of terrorist suicide bombing, it was always largely ignored despite ample evidence that the poor dim, over-hormoned moody adolescent boys who were most the early recruits to this terrible plague were victims - care in reporting has never been more important, and never been more absent.
We need to fix this - I have no idea how (short of Chinese censorship which has other problems:(