The 60 Minutes H1N1 Scare

CBS's 60 Minutes' H1N1 report last night was very well done, and conveyed the proper message that everyone born after 1950 should have an H1N1 vaccine in addition to the regular flu vaccine this year. But, here is what I found inappropriate.

CBS's 60 Minutes' H1N1 report last night was very well done, and conveyed the proper message that everyone born after 1950 should have an H1N1 vaccine in addition to the regular flu vaccine this year.  The risks of H1N1 are very serious and were very well outlined in the report with both experts from the CDC and a case study of a 15-year old football player who was afflicted with the disease in Arkansas.

But, I had two problems with the report:

First, it should have been more clear that in most areas of the country this vaccine isn't going to be available until the second week of November.  I am not sure that a call to action of this nature should be made by the media when action cannot be taken at this point.  Calling for action at this point does nothing but create widespread panic (or at least overload doctors' phone lines). In this case, I think at the very least CBS could have done more to disclose that the vaccine is not currently readily available.

Second, the program ended with a statement that viewers could identify where to get the vaccine by going to 60 Minutes' own website.  The website doesn't contain any proprietary information on where viewers can get a vaccine, but directs everyone directly to the www.flu.gov website, which is managed by the US Centers for Disease Control, a government institution.  It is true that arbitrage is the name of the game with internet sites - in other words everyone who operates one is trying to get eyeballs, count them for advertising purposes and then direct them off to an advertiser.  Nevertheless, I wonder if it is completely appropriate for CBS to be directing people to their own website, only to offload them on a govenrment site with the information that they have purported would be on their own site.

Before this article elicits all types of angry responses about a free press, I know that we live in a free and open society and it is what makes our country great.  I also believe that in a free and open society, the media can overeach and run the risk of abusing people's trust.  And, I am just questioning whether 60 Minutes did just that. 

Aron Livrone
Aron Livrone: Aron is a 2008 Wharton MBA with a consulting background prior to moving from Sweden to the US to begin his MBA.

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Comments

  • Ari

    October 19, 2009

    Neither of your points seem like big deals at all. How exactly did 60 Minutes overreach? By telling people to go to their website and then directing them to the CDC? This is done all the time.

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