I was listening to NPR this morning as I do a lot of mornings. I can barely tolerate those cutsie wake-up morning shows on the radio. Everyone is so dang cheery and cheesy. And loud. Have you noticed that? You’d think a morning radio host would be less like a drill sergeant and more like a dear granny, greeting their audiences with a gentle word instead of yanking them into reality.
NPR’s hosts aren’t usually loud, albeit in an effort to appeal to a younger audience some of their morning music can be quite grating. The exception being during pledge week and then Public Broadcasting hosts can be like parrots repeating the same phrase, usually the station’s phone number. I’d rather listen to randomly placed ads from Home Depot on a regular basis than to be subjected to the mindless drone of pledge week. (I’m a sustaining member by the way, so it’s not the giving I have trouble with – it’s the begging).
This morning the host was interviewing a fellow from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He was all in a tizzy over the Zika virus. Specifically, he was concerned that Congress was not going to take the action needed to protect the American public. In other words, Congress might not allocate the funds needed to enable the CDC to do the job they (Congress) charged them with doing.
In journalism jargon, we call that unfunded mandates. Congress drums up some half-witted notion, makes it a law, mandates that the law be carried out, but fails to provide any funding to support the very law they drummed up.
It happens all the time, both on the Federal level, and on the local level.
When that happens, federally-funded programs like the CDC gets caught in the cross-hairs.
Sometimes, it’s the president who makes such half-witted mandates, such as was the case with Obama and the letter to school districts about new bathroom policy. But I digress.
As I was listening to the CDC fellow talk about the threat of Zika, I couldn’t help but think of the dozens of times I’ve heard the very same conversation about a gazillion other possible threats: Zika, Ebola, MERS, SARS, E.Coli, Swine Flu, etc. The CDC is beginning to sound a bit like a menopausal woman in the throes of an epic hissy fit.
C’mon, fess up, how many of you got scared to travel during the Ebola epidemic, which infected, what, five or six people in the US? Texting and driving killed more people in the US than Ebola did.
Now, I’m not saying that the CDC shouldn’t act on the side of caution. Of course they should. We all should. It could be argued that the reason so few fell ill in the US from Ebola was because of the CDC’s best efforts at educating the public.
We are fortunate to have an agency that looks to the welfare of the public.
But, lately, listening to news out of the CDC is a bit like watching a Soap Opera. The storyline never changes: Everyone is always carrying on over some problem that lands somebody in the hospital and threatens the welfare of everyone else.
The problem with these kinds of storylines is that an audience can go years without paying attention to it because they quickly learn that the story never changes – only the actors do.
Or in the case of the CDC, only the diseases do.
Karen Spears Zacharias is author of BURDY (Mercer Univ. Press).