May 28, 2009

Swine Flu Coverage around the World

France: Le Figaro

When it came to France, a country with fewer confirmed cases (12) than Spain but more than China and New Zealand, coverage in one of the leading French dailies was sparse and not nearly as diplomatic.  

Le Figaro in Paris ran just two front page stories during the first two weeks, with occasional teasers to coverage further inside the paper, for an average of one story for every six cases.

Even in just two stories, though, it represented much of what the Mexican and Spanish press decried – by referring to the virus as the “Mexican flu” in its headlines. The “Mexican Flu: Anxiety Increases In the World” read the headline of the April 30 report.

Le Figaro was not alone in its use of what some saw as inflammatory language to describe the virus. The Toronto Star and other countries not included in the study also attached the term “Mexican” to the flu’s name in at least some their coverage. According to a report in Science Magazine outlining the evolution of the virus’s name, (http://blogs.sciencemag.org/scienceinsider/2009/05/swine-flu-names.html)  the Netherlands government went so far as to make the term “Mexican flu” Official.  A lawmaker in Israel also drew brief media attention when he suggested the term “swine” not be used for religious reasons and be replaced with “Mexican.” Ultimately, though, the name was not officially changed.