We’re all back safe and sound from Mexico, and the past few days there feel all the more odd looking back at them from a few thousand miles away. I just wanted to share an interesting (and depressing) moment as we came out of arrivals at the airport. It wasn’t journalism’s finest hour.
Most of us queueing to check-in at Mexico City airport were wearing masks, most of us kept them on on the plane, and a few of us wore them right up until passport control. I didn’t see anyone wearing one from then on.
As we came out of arrivals there were around twenty press photographers and a few TV cameramen. They were shouting ‘who’s come from Mexico?’ but weren’t interested as people signalled that they had. Then they spotted a woman with a mask around her neck.
‘Put it on, put it on,’ they shouted and then when she did the flashbulbs went into overdrive. Then they got her child to put on her mask as well. More snaps.
They weren’t in the slightest bit interested in the hundreds of us coming through who didn’t think a mask was necessary.
And we all know which picture will get sold to the newspapers, and which video clips will be used on some of the TV news bulletins.
I then bought a paper and read this furious column by Simon Jenkins who’s alleging that both the media and the WHO have an interest in cranking up concern about swine flu.
I then picked up the Daily Express which had a huge headline saying 40 per cent of Britons could get swine flu. The story that followed backed the headline up with quotes from the WHO.
I’m not saying I agree with Simkon Jenkins, nor am I criticising the Express story, but the way this outbreak is being portrayed is clearly a major issue and ties in with our discussion yesterday about if the world’s reaction is in proportion to the threat to our health.
That short moment in the arrivals hall suggested that in some quarters the desire to portray this outbreak at its most threatening and scary is there.