A Timeline Of Media-Inflamed Fears (2000-2017)

Modern-day media does not generally have the most effective reputation for providing advanced and nuanced commentary.

The news cycle is sensational plenty of when we’re dealing with the typical issues of the working day. But, as Visual Capitalist’s Jeff Desjardins notes, increase in some uncertainty and urgency – these kinds of as when the environment is working with an outbreak like SARS, Mad Cow Disease, Ebola, or even Y2K – and each headline appears to be to get much more provocative or speculative than the final.

Today’s graphics appear to us from Information and facts is Gorgeous, and they present the intensity of information mentions for distinctive topics that stoked frenzies in the media from 2000-2017.

Courtesy of Visible Capitalist


We all make problems, but headlines for Ebola introduced a new stage of hyperbole to the desk.

“Ebola in the air? A nightmare that could happen” – CNN (connection)

“New Ebola Instances May perhaps Shortly Achieve 10,000 a Week, Officers Predict” – NYT (link)

“Ebola as ISIS Bio-Weapon?” – Forbes (website link)

In simple fact, the outbreak in 2014 goes down as the most sensationalized gatherings in the final 17 a long time.

Here’s all other subject areas scaled to match Ebola mentions (which go “off the page” in the very first graph):

Absolutely nothing is even close.

By the way, it turned out that Ebola did not mutate into a terrifying airborne virus. The CNN posting with the insane headline even admits in the physique of the article alone: “Speculation that Ebola virus illness might mutate into a kind that could quickly distribute among human beings as a result of the air is just that: speculation, unsubstantiated by any evidence.”

In the meantime, Ebola situations strike a most price of 6,987 in a thirty day period, mostly for the reason that of delayed reporting of older scenarios in Liberia. Regardless, that is just 17% of the predicted “10,000 instances per week” fee noted in a New York Situations headline.

Ultimately, as you’re most likely informed: ISIS did not weaponize Ebola, either. Made for superior clickbait, even though.


When we scale the facts to match complete fatalities, the sensationalism of numerous of the outbreaks is even clearer:

The loss of life depend for Ebola did inevitably strike 11,310 globally, and Swine Flu resulted in 18,500 lab-verified fatalities (and potentially numerous more). Having said that, most of these outbreaks ended up somewhat harmless in relative terms. The Zika Virus, for case in point, resulted in only a handful of fatalities.

Though having zero fatalities is definitely the perfect, and many of the issues previously mentioned ought to be taken pretty very seriously in particular as tales build, we must be very careful not to blow points out of proportion. Creating mountains out of molehills does not enable any individual, and it provides to developing distrust of media in standard.



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A Timeline Of Media-Inflamed Fears (2000-2017)

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