Hyperbole – and Ebola

In recent days, the Compass has fielded inquiries from readers who want to know why the newspaper isn’t running more, and more prominent, articles on the Ebola outbreak. The simple explanation is that we are treating the topic with all the seriousness it deserves, but no more.

As the Ebola story evolves, the Compass will continue to provide factual information – in context and in perspective – on the disease, just as we do with, for example, chikungunya and dengue – two African viruses that at this time are far greater threats to Cayman’s public health than Ebola.

To date, Ebola has spread to a handful of people (about two dozen) in Nigeria, Senegal, Spain and the United States. No cases have been reported in, nor is the disease thought to pose a particular threat to, the Caribbean, including the Cayman Islands.

Nevertheless, we have just been informed by Cayman government
officials that “13 agencies are working together robustly to mitigate
against the threat of the Ebola virus.” (That is somewhat reminiscent of
our postal workers handling Cayman mail in full “Hazmat” gear following
the 2001 anthrax scare in the United States.)

As a tourism and
international business destination, we certainly want to act – but not
overreact. Old-timers, we’re certain, can recall the days when there
weren’t 13 agencies in the entire country!

This is not to say
that the Ebola virus isn’t deadly serious. In fact, the outbreak in West
Africa is the largest Ebola epidemic in history. The virus has infected
thousands of people in the three countries of Guinea, Liberia and
Sierra Leone. There, the official death count is about 4,500 and
climbing.

The facts of Ebola, as they stand, are frightening
enough on their own, even without opportunistic media outlets fueling
fears of a global pandemic. At the Compass, we’ll try to keep our
coverage of the spread of this virus rational and proportional – but
below a panicky fever pitch.

Yesterday’s (and tomorrow’s) news

Beginning today – and on following Mondays – the Compass will publish on its front page a column that provides updates on important ongoing stories (“Flashback”) and a quick glance at important stories to look for during the upcoming week (“The Week Ahead”).

Too often, in the Compass and other media, major stories are reported only once, and then forgotten or ignored as the daily news cycle offers up a whole new set of breaking events. This lack of regular updating does not reflect the way the world really works.

The developmental cycle of many events includes both longevity and continuity. In other words, stories have pasts, presents and futures. A one-time snapshot is too often woefully incomplete. All too frequently in the news business we hear, “What ever happened to … ?”

The most important stories – such as Cayman’s toxic landfill or our ongoing battle with crime – of course, are especially not susceptible to one-off treatment, reducible to 140-character Twitter feeds, or two minutes of airtime on a local television broadcast. They require regular reportorial revisits.

And so, at the Compass, we’re not asking you to do more in keeping up with ongoing issues and events. Our goal is to improve our own performance so that we make it easier for you to keep current with what’s really important in our community.

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