Already, this is big news. The public wants to read about it. The public is vaguely concerned. The public has adopted “wait and see.” This is rational. But we know this of news stories: they escalate. Then they peak. Then they go away.
What will make this story peak? Will the next Ebola-suffering nurse be the last? Of course not. Will the disease peak in West Africa? Not this year. Will there be additional victims in Europe and the USA? Yes.
What will relegate these stories into noise? Boredom? Unlikely. Spreading calm? Not from reassurances by the CDC. Will there be increasing voter skepticism of the government — local, state, and federal? Count on it.
At some point, this fascination will either fade because of public boredom or escalate into a national panic.
This is not a one-time story. It is not the equivalent of the disappearance of the Malaysian airliner, which remained front-page news for weeks. Eventually, people decide it’s not worth reading about. There is no new news. Not with Ebola.
Ask yourself: Why will Ebola’s spread in major cities, case by case, no longer capture the public’s interest? This is a continuing story. It is a general story of interest that is confirmed daily: one story, many cases.
There is no cure for Ebola. There is no vaccine. The death rate is 50%. There is no way for the government to limit the spread of the disease. There is no way for the government to limit the spread of the news stories. The Internet has changed the balance between government’s suppression of information and the public’s access to it. The government cannot put a cork in this genie’s bottle.
There is a contest in the news media between boredom and widespread panic. It will end in one or the other.
Which of these sell more newspapers? Forest fire stories or church bake sale stories?
This is a forest fire story in perpetual summer. The hot winds are coming.