During the more than 30 years that I have studied viruses, I have had many opportunities to speak with journalists of different kinds. For the most part, the print journalists have done a good job at accurately presenting the science, but I cannot say the same for my experience on radio and TV. I want to share some of these recordings and my thoughts about the gap between science and broadcast journalism.
I was interviewed by Katy Pilgrim of CNN in May 2009, shortly after the emergence of swine-origin influenza H1N1. There had been a number of cases in New York City and Ms. Pilgrim was looking for comments on school closings. She came to my laboratory with a cameraman, spent 10 minutes talking with me off-camera followed by 10 minutes on-camera. As you will see in the news clip below that played on that evening’s news, only 10 seconds of my comments were used. Ms. Pilgrim was looking for someone to say that NYC schools should have been closed for the remainder of the academic year. I did not think such closing was warranted by the mild nature of the influenza outbreak. This was not what CNN wanted to hear, so my comments were not used.
What I learned from this interview is that CNN went out looking for a specific story: they wanted to stir up controversy over the fact that the NYC school system remained open. Because in the end, controversy helps ratings. But I didn’t tell them what they wanted to hear, so my comments were not newsworthy.