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Monday, October 20, 2014

How Should You Report on Ebola?


Despite what we heard from the federal government, Ebola is here and with every passing day it seems there is a real possibility it might spread inside the United States. Radio is the best medium when it comes to responsibly informing its communities. So, how is radio covering this major national story? Here's just a sampling from around the country. In New York 1010 WINS devotes most of its first news segment in each show to Ebola but as Director of News and Programming at the station Ben Mevorach explains, on this topic, you have to be careful. "We have conducted live interviews with our local health officials and experts and we have carried CDC and the President's news statements live but we are not all Ebola all the time." Mevorach explains how 1010 WINS handles the Ebola story, and it's a great lesson for managers and news directors all across the country.

 People certainly want to be kept abreast of new developments and they want assurances that their city is prepared but I think its important to note that we spend a lot of time weighing what not to air as well. We want to keep our listeners informed without creating or contributing to a potential atmosphere of irrational fear. After the attacks on 9/11 there were unattended packages being left all over the city and the NYPD bomb squad had to respond to each and every one. We made a conscious decision not to report on 99 percent of them for the same reason we are being judicious about our Ebola coverage. What we don't report can be as important a decision as what we do report. It's responsible journalism."

At WCBS-AM in New York City, early on in the situation, the station aired a full hour on Ebola with CBS News Chief Medical Correspondent Dr John Lapook (pictured here). The station promoted it for 24 hours and collected Facebook and Twitter questions. WCBS-AM also provides the latest coverage every morning and digs deeper on the topic during weekday afternoon roundup shows at 3:30 p.m.

And, as this story affects every city, large or small, Guaranty Broadcasting's WBRP-FM, Talk 107.3 in Baton Rouge, Bill Profita tells us his station has also covered Ebola extensively. "Going back to Dr. Brantley being returned to the US, we have devoted time each day to the Ebola situation. We have had live interviews with the chief of infectious diseases at our largest medical center, as well as the physician who heads emergency plans and hospital safety. We have interviewed our state medical director on planning and training, likewise our director of EMS. Also, the national nurses union, and our statewide nurses association.We have had hospital administrators and state Department of Health and Hospitals officials. We are also taking regular live "two ways" with CBS correspondents in Dallas and DC."

Hubbard's all-news powerhouse WTOP is holding a town hall meeting called "Ebola comes to America. What Now?" this Monday. WTOP will deliver valuable information about the threat of ebola in a special one-hour live town hall broadcast, at the Knight TV Studio at the Newseum in Washington, DC. WTOP PD Laurie Cantillo says, ?WTOP is pleased to facilitate an in-depth discussion on this important subject. The town hall format gives everyone a chance to ask questions directly of two preeminent physicians on the forefront of the battle against this deadly disease.?

Midday anchors Bruce Alan and Debra Feinstein will host the forum, with two special guests on the front lines of the ebola crisis: Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at National Institutes of Health, and Dr. Jesse Goodman, professor of medicine at Georgetown University Medical Center and active infectious diseases clinician at the Washington DC VA Medical Center and Walter Reed Medical Center. WTOP has also extended an invitation to the Centers for Disease Control to join the panel.

How is your station covering the Ebola situation? Let us know by e-mailing details to

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