Media, feds play risky name game


Last week, I think I saw the headline “Ebola crisis” on every station I flipped through, every billboard I whizzed by, every social media newsfeed I scrolled down. The word “crisis” is a red-flag word. It promotes fear, anxiety and ensues widespread panic. It is a word that should not be taken lightly, nor thrown around at ease.

Last week, each time that I tuned into the morning newsroom edition of CNN with Carol Costello, Costello would address the issue as a crisis and the news ticker would dizzily roll by flashing the words: “Ebola crisis.”

Yesterday morning, I routinely turned on CNN to find Costello sassily trying to put things into perspective for the audience. “Let’s put the so-called Ebola crisis in perspective,” Costello said, “there are nearly 319 million people in the U.S. and two people, two, have contracted Ebola. Two.” Two, she emphasized.

“You would think that our lawmakers would point that out so that there is no panic.” She then went on to criticize Tulsi Gabbard, Democratic politician, for petitioning to extend the incubation period for twice the time that the CDC has required.

The whole scenario is an oxymoron. All this finger pointing really should have been redirected at the media. For an entire week, news anchors like CNN’s Costello were labeling this incident as a “crisis,” creating a fiasco out of the situation. All of a sudden, the politicians are completely at fault for blowing up the situation and instilling fear in American homes?

In an industry so reliant on the written and spoken word, word choice is, well, important. It is word choice that can make or break a story, a reporter, and a nation. Certain trigger words should be used with caution and labeling situations should be done so with much thought.

On the other hand, another one of the United States’ greatest and most current events, has yet to be labeled.

After around three months of an onslaught of threats, a handful of decapitations, and the bombing of the Islamic State, the crisis in Syria has yet to be labeled. The effort to contain the Ebola outbreak in West Africa has been named Operation United Assistance. And yet, one of the most pressing issues on US homeland security is a fill-in-the-blank.

Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said there is “an effort under way to consider … a potential name for this operation.”

This name-game that the United States government and media are playing is a dangerous one, as it is ultimately these names (or thereof, lack of names) that will go down in the history books.