By Dr. Paul Ehrlich
A couple of years ago, Jon Stewart said TV news reporting of the presidential campaign was like watching 8-year-olds play soccer. They all run after the ball and when someone kicks it the other way, they all chase it again. No positions. No defense. Just mindless changes of direction. At least the kids have an excuse; they’re kids. But what about reporters and editors?
I was reminded of this when I read a piece on Slate.com called “Bogus Trend of the Week: Worst Allergy Season Ever!” by a writer named Jack Shafer:
“The press would have you believe that spring 2011 is shaping up as the worst allergy season ever. Your response should be to place a finger over one clogged nostril, point your nose at the news sources in question, and blow.
“The Wall Street Journal appears to have been the first big media outlet to push the idea this spring with a May 11 piece about allergy season. The lede reports:
‘It is an annual spring rite as familiar as the prickling of buds along tree branches: For allergy sufferers, the misery of previous years recedes in the face of immediate agony. As eyes start to itch, throats clench and minds cloud, a declaration inevitably circulates across New York: Worst. Allergy. Season. Ever.
‘Only this time, experts say, it might actually be true—at least in recent memory.’”
Shafer goes on to cite Newsday, NBC Nightly News and many more organizations for jumping on the bandwagon.
I’m with you, Jack Shafer. Look, it is a bad season. At my own parent support group, a Mom asked, “Is it…?” I’ll tell you what I told her. My theory is that all those trees produce a certain amount of pollen they have to release. But it has been a cold and rainy spring, which inhibits them. On those warm sunny days, they do what they’re supposed to do, but on an accelerated timetable, which results in high pollen counts and bad symptoms.
Mr. Shafer adds, “I’m not a pollen denier. I’m all too happy to acknowledge that weather conditions have conspired to boost pollen counts in many areas of the country this spring and to encourage the growth of mold.”
Is there something ominous about it to justify the media hysteria? Well, I also think that the planet is warming because of manmade carbon emissions, and that this is affecting the length of the growing season, although the Wall St. Journal editorial page would strenuously argue that it has nothing to do with human activity.
Shafer has a conspiracy theory of this own: “I wonder if the anecdotally high number of snotting patients visiting allergists has as much to do with endless TV commercials for allergy drugs as it does from this spring’s pollen counts.”
I can assure him on that score. Patients don’t shell out for allergists because of commercials, they buy the medicines. They come to us because they are, in his word, “snotting.” And every year is the worst year ever.