Covering Ebola: ‘It’s So Easy to Stoke the Fear Instead of Talking Plain’

By Merrill Knox 

Dr Nancy Snyderman Ebola reportFor correspondents tasked with covering the deadly Ebola outbreak in West Africa, there is a fine line to be walked with each and every report: where is the balance between informing and scaring?

“I always flip-flop in my mind. Ebola: it’s really scary. The fact that it jumped through borders by plane in Nigeria: scary,” NBC News chief medical editor Dr. Nancy Snyderman tells TVNewser. “But when responsible people say you must be in close proximity to someone and be exposed to vomit, diarrhea, blood [to be infected] — it’s not casual. I want people to know that we don’t make that stuff up. It’s to reassure and to tell the truth. I believe fervently that the public has a right to know. And my job is to tell people the truth. Even on the scary days, tell them the truth.”

“We’re going to keep all eyes on Atlanta right now as long as the two Americans are hospitalized,” she added. “The CDC has been extraordinarily transparent in the calls they’re getting and samples they’re getting. And as a reporter, it’s still all eyes on Africa” (watch her report after the jump).

Ditto CNN International correspondent David McKenzie, who was the first reporter granted access to the main Ebola treatment center in Sierra Leone, one of the hardest-hit areas. McKenzie tells TVNewser that getting to the treatment center was crucial to examining the outbreak’s human impact.

7p CNN Aircheck“For us it was also very important to try to tell people’s stories because the fear that surrounds the patients often gets in the way that there are real people affected by this – real human stories,” McKenzie says. “It was incredible to see the work of the doctors and health staff going in every day – multiple times a day – wearing protective gear just trying to save lives as best they can.”

Snyderman, too, says she would like to report from Africa, noting the outbreak deserves attention from the front lines.

“I think this is a really important story because it’s a scary killer virus, because the world is smaller and smaller and smaller, and because it’s so easy to stoke the fear instead of talking plain,” Snyderman says. “The more people know, the less they’ll be scared.”