REFERENCE: Mike Argento, USA Today Network, "Coroner Battles Heroin Epidemic" in "I am an American / We are One Nation" series, Ventura County Star Sunday, 19 Feb. 2017: 17A
An epidemic [… in the medical sense] is the
rapid spread of infectious disease
to a large number of people in a given population
within a short period of time, usually two weeks or less.
For example, in meningococcal infections,
an attack rate in excess of 15 cases
per 100,000 people for two consecutive weeks
is considered an epidemic.
Those who complain that Donald Trump offers a "post-truth" administration should consider the possibility that "post-truth" basically pushes to a logical extreme the little lies of journalism and everyday life, and the bigger lies of advertising.
The USA Today "I am an American" series has a fine piece on Pam Gay, Coroner of York County, PA. In the article, Ms. Gay talks about opiates and opioids, and there is a quotation from 2013 from Gay's chief deputy that heroin overdoses might become a "problem." Overdoses and abuse of opiates and opioids did become a problem, and Ms. Gay has done excellent work combating that problem.
Ms. Gay in the article does not use the word "epidemic," nor does the article offer statistics from which we can infer a literal epidemic: how many cases per 100,000 people in fairly short periods.
The writers of the headlines and subheads do use "epidemic," and where the text of the article includes other opiates and also opioids, the heads stress heroin.
That's hype — HEROIN EPIDEMIC! — and hyperbole not done for artistic effect is always and necessarily at least a little lie.
So is the selective reporting of "No blood, no news" — a quote from a TV news director during the student strikes of 1970 — and the misleading emphasis of "If it bleeds, / It leads." Such reporting makes America look more dangerous than it is and aids politicians who gain power from fear.
And commercial journalism depends upon advertising, some of which is informative and useful; much of which is manipulative and misleading, promising buyers increased coolness that few products can deliver.
Continue to chide the Roves and Trumps of the world, but look to your own practice as well.
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