Thursday, November 5, 2009

Yes, Yes, It's An Outrage

As if to demonstrate their complete and total disregard for the general public, Goldman Sachs and Citigroup received shipments of swine flu vaccine, while there are still small-town doctors and public-health clinics that haven't gotten all the doses that they need. And of course, the news media were all over it, making sure that we knew that undeserving banking executives were getting vaccines while there were still poor widows and orphans living in fear of the deadly H1N1 virus.

Except... that's not really the way it went down. The state of New York, having been given the authority to dispense vaccine as they saw fit, allowed large employers to apply for doses, so that they could vaccinate their high-risk employees in the workplaces. Shocking, I know. Of course, this is really only an issue because of the financial crisis. If people weren't currently ready to string up anyone who's ever worked within 100 yards of a bank this wouldn't be all over the papers and the airwaves. And that same impulse to splash this story all over the place is also driving coverage that implies that wealthy bankers are being cared for, while ordinary citizens wait. Never mind the fact that people in the at-risk categories work at banks, and other major employers in New York, like Time Inc. and Columbia University also received doses for their employees. Even reasonably complete stories, like this Associated Press piece tend to play up the fact that Wall Street is receiving vaccine before everyone on Main Street (those Main Streeters who aren't convinced that the vaccine is either absurdly dangerous or a government plot, anyway) has gotten theirs.

As much play as various stories about media outlets being politically biased are receiving, it's important to remember that first and foremost, media is a business, and a business driven by eyeballs. And nothing gathers eyeballs like a controversy, even if the editors have to create one themselves.

Of course, we as the public should know this by now, and not be quite so easily taken in. Fool me once, shame on you - fool me about once a week on an ongoing basis, and I probably really am a fool.

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