Case Studies in Earth & Environmental Science Journalism
**With all these pieces keep aware of ‘wolf-crying.’ This is the idea of impending gloom and doom that we noted with the K/T event and also in the Bangladesh case. When are writers just stating the facts and when are they trying to stir up fear?
**After you’ve looked through the 1918 papers go back and look at what Surgeon-General Braisted of the U.S. Navy says on January 5th in the British Medical Journal; Do you agree with me that his punishment should have been to actually eat his words, all of them, every single time they occurred in print?
**Pay attention to the debate on the closing of public facilities in response to the epidemic. Why do you think school’s are always at the center of this debate? What are the advantages of keeping school’s and public theatres open?
**Look at the Journal of the American Medical Association Influenza report (December 21, 1918). What are some of the recommendations the writer’s suggest for dealing with the epidemic? Are these guys off their rockers or do they have the right idea? How would such advice fly today?
**Again I remind you to note the contradictions in the headlines. Do you see a pattern developing as far as headline-byline relationship goes (Hint – You Should!)? Also look at the two different September 18thBoston Daily Globe articles. The same phenomenon is seen on the 26th. What message are these guys trying to send; is this an epidemic or not?
**Do you see a difference in how the Boston epidemic is reported in the cities own paper as compared with other city’s newspapers (NY, LA, Washington, Atlanta)?
**With 1918 Influenza it seems as if writers are actually warranted to ‘cry wolf.’ Do they? Can you pinpoint a date when people just throw their hands up in the air and give up?
**What went down in Chicago December 9-12, 1918? Had flu hit the city yet? Was the nation experiencing an epidemic? Was there a consensus? What were the recommendations in dealing with the flu?
**Make sure to take note of the Annals of Internal Medicine October 1976 article by Isaac Starr. What are the implications of the last remaining 1918 flu survivors dying off?
**Note the article in the Pacific Northwest Quarterly (This is for you Jacoba!); Did Seattle benefit from getting the flu several weeks behind eastern cities? Check out the very interesting graph on page 110; what happened on November 11th 1918? (Also, look how heart disease spiked right after ‘November 11th’ – strange!)
**How often do influenza epidemics occur? Who is the group most commonly affected? Why are the elderly less susceptible? Within the United States where did the disease begin?
**Note the differences and similarities between the old JAMA articles and the one from 1998. Keep aware of the degree of ‘wolf-crying.’ What’s all this talk of ‘nasal sprays’? Does JAMA’s opinion of their effectiveness change over time (See the December 21 1918 JAMA article)?
**The main reason why I have you read the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences piece is that our interviewee, Stephen S. Morse, is co-author. It gets technical, but note the main point these researchers are making. What implications does this paper have about what’s going on right now with avian flu?
**Look at the GAO report. What does GAO stand for? How many people does the report say would be affected by an influenza epidemic in present-day USA? How much would it cost?
**The GAO report lists a comprehensive set of acronyms, federal agencies responsible for dealing with certain aspects of an epidemic; does this allay your fears? Do you think they have covered all the bases?
**Note how much writers claim an epidemic would cost and how many lives they say one would take. Does this jibe with figures given later in the GAO report?
**Read Dr. Bruce Gellin’s testimony to congress. What do you think; does he instill confidence in you? Are we prepared? Any similarities or differences to what the doctor’s advised in the December 1918 Chicago meeting?
**Flu bursts back on the scene in an excellent New York Times piece by Robin Marantz Henig, November 29 1992. Does this article remind you at all of any of the pre-Katrina New-Orleans-is-at-risk pieces? Is Henig crying wolf or simply informing here? Also make sure to note the comments by our interviewee. How does he think animals play a role in the disease’s evolution?
**Gina Kolata! (March 21 1997 New York Times piece) Ring a bell kids? She should; do you think she’s up to her old tricks here (hyping unconfirmed results, misuse of sources, claiming the cure to cancer has been developed when it hasn’t…)? Check out her October 6 2005 Times article as well. Has her tone and style changed since then?
**Can you pinpoint a time when the tone of the articles change, from one of quaint recollection to one of exaggerated dread? Is the tone in any of these pieces quaint recollection or exaggerated dread?
**What are some of the different styles used to announce the reconstruction of the 1918 virus? Note differences between institutions like CIDRAP, newspapers, and the government.
**Note the posts in response to the free-republic article. What do the posters have to contribute to our crying wolf theme; are we crying it or not?
**Check out The Tulsa World, November 6 2005; smell something fishy here?
**Compare titles of 1918 newspapers with contemporary ones; do you see any relationships?
British Medical Journal. p11, January 5, 1918.
Trench fever and the notification of influenza. British Medical Journal. p40, January 5, 1918.
The influenza pandemic. British Medical Journal. p39, July 13, 1918.
Epidemic Influenza. Journal of the American Medical Association. 71: 1136-1137, 1918.
Soper, George A. The influenza pneumonia pandemic in the American Army camps during September and October, 1918. Science. Vol. XLVIII: 451-456, 1918.
Anti-influenza measures in schools. Journal of the American Medical Association. 71: 1929, 1918.
Evans, W. A., Armstrong, D.B., Davis, William H., Kopf, E.W., and Woodward, William C. Report of a special committee of the American Public Health Association. Journal of the American Medical Association. 71: 2068-2073, 1918.
Fear influenza outbreak among sailors may spread. Boston Globe Daily. September 6, 1918.
Takes steps to stop influenza spread. New York Times. September 14, 1918.
Simply grippe, Rear Admiral Wood says. Boston Daily Globe. September 15, 1918.
2,000 Influenza cases in Boston. Chicago Daily Tribune. September 15, 1918.
Grippe making great headway. Boston Daily Globe. September 17, 1918.
Sixteen deaths in Boston. New York Times. September 17, 1918.
Common sense about the epidemic. Boston Daily Globe. September 18, 1918.
Devens excited by Spanish Influenza. Boston Daily Globe. September 18, 1918.
Vigorous action to stamp out grippe. Boston Daily Globe. September 18, 1918.
Influenza spreading to civil population. Los Angeles Times. September 19, 1918.
Cover up each cough and sneeze; If you don’t you’ll spread disease. Boston Daily Globe. September 20, 1918.
Dr. Woodward confident worst of contagion over. Boston Daily Globe. September 20, 1918.
Wants Boston schools closed. Boston Daily Globe. September 20, 1918.
Influenza cases on the increase. Boston Daily Globe. September 21, 1918.
Predicts influenza cases will decrease. Los Angeles Times. September 23, 1918.
Influenza toll in Boston for day 87. Boston Daily Globe. September 24, 1918.
Fight influenza here. The Washington Post. September 25, 1918.
State-wide call to stop all gatherings. Boston Daily Globe. September 26, 1918.
Influenza sweeps over the country. Boston Daily Globe. September 26, 1918.
Public gatherings barred till Oct. 7. Boston Daily Globe. September 27, 1918.
Doctors of U.S. open campaign here to end flu. Chicago Daily Tribune. December 10, 1918.
Influenza epidemic not expected here. New York Times. December 13, 1918.
Health officers split on influenza scourge. New York Times. December 13, 1918.
Experts tell way of dealing with influenza. Chicago Daily Tribune. December 14, 1918.
The medical and scientific conceptions of influenza. http://www.stanford.edu/group/virus/uda/fluscimed.html. Accessed: November 2, 2005.
The public health response. http://www.stanford.edu/group/virus/uda/fluresponse.html. Accessed: November 2, 2005.
Starr, Isaac. Influenza in 1918: Recollections of the epidemic in Philadelphia. Annals of Internal Medicine. 85: 516-518, 1976.
Rockafellar, Nancy. “In gauze we trust”: Public health and Spanish Influenza on the home front, Seattle, 1918-1919. Pacific Northwest Quarterly. 77: 104-113, 1986.
Stephenson, Joan. Progress treating, preventing influenza. Journal of the American Medical Association. 280: 1729-1730, 1998.
Potter, C.W. A history of influenza. Journal of Applied Microbiology. 91: 572-579, 2001.
Olson, Donald R., Simonsen, Lone, Edelson, Paul J., and Morse, Stephen S. Epidemiological evidence of an early wave of the 1918 influenza pandemic in New York City. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 102: 11059-11063, 2005.
Crosse, Marcia. Influenza pandemic: Challenges remain in preparedness. United States Government Accountability Office: Testimony before the subcommittee on health, committee on energy and commerce, House of Representatives. May 26, 2005.
Gellin, Bruce G. Pandemic influenza preparedness. United States Department of Health and Human Services: Testimony before the committee on government reform United States House of Representatives. June 30, 2005.
Internal memo on influenza vaccine availability. New York-Presbyterian Hospital, as recommended by Center for Disease Control and Occupational Health Service. September 2005.
Henig, Robin Marantz. Flu pandemic: A lethal strain of the virus killed more than 20 million in 1918. Scientists say it’s time for another, and modern medicine may not be of much help. New York Times. November 29, 1992.
Kolata, Gina. Genetic material of virus from 1918 flu is found. New York Times. March 21, 1997.
Altman, Lawrence K. Scrambling for flu’s secrets. New York Times. December 30, 1997.
Altman, Lawrence K. When a novel flu is involved, health officials get jumpy. New York Times. December 30, 1997.
Wilford, John Noble. In the Norwegian permafrost, a new hunt for the deadly 1918 flu virus. New York Times. August 21, 1998.
Gross, Terry. Interview with author John Barry about the 1918 influenza virus that killed millions. Fresh Air, WHYY. April 5, 2004.
Taubenberger, Jeffery K., Reid, Ann H., Fanning, Thomas G. Capturing a killer flu virus. Scientific American. January 2005.
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