I did a TV interview with CHCH-TV (a Hamilton affiliate of CanWest Global) on avian flu this morning. With me on the show were former Chief Medical Officer Richard Schabas and McMaster researcher Mark Loeb. Let me be as clear with you as I was with their producers: I am not an avian flu expert. I am an epidemiology generalist and a researcher in international health. As such, I was prepared to discuss avian flu in the context of other global diseases demanding public attention and funds. I had nonetheless studied the most recent influenza policy documents of both Health Canada and the Ontario Ministry of Health.
About 30 seconds into the interview, my audio cut out. That’s right. I have no idea what was being said or what questions were being asked of me. But just before that moment, I did gather that the assembled persons were more interested in determining whether the WHO and the CDC are trustworthy stewards of the Power To Declare Pandemic; it’s a leftover Ontario bitterness over the whole SARS thing. I really don’t care about such political nonsense, though it seemed that’s the way the discussion was headed.
So it’s probably a good thing I was shut out of further commentary. The things I care about –global disease surveillance, the 10/90 gap, increasing funding and public awareness of basic vaccination needs of children, the diarrhea pandemic and simply caring about the Developing World– were not going to be on the table.
I learned my lesson. While I’m thankful to CHCH for considering me, it clearly was not a good fit. I’ll vet my media opportunities better in the future.
Well, our sitar school held its first Ottawa student concert last night. Despite some technical gaffs, I think everything went well. Of course, everyone –myself included– was justifiably awed by the charisma and skill of our instructor, Anwar Khurshid. Here’s a picture of me, hidden behind other students, diligently focused on playing my 3 notes. Yep, that’s all I was playing, and even screwing that up.
Tomorrow morning I tape an interview with CanWest Global TV on avian flu. Wish me luck!
Further to my last post, Evan Solomon’s people have not got back to me after my confession that I’m not a true avian flu expert. Oh well, just so they know: I’m really cute on camera 😉
However, CanWest Global CHCH TV didn’t seem to care that I don’t do direct research on avian flu, and so I will be taping an interview with them Monday morning. Not sure of the broadcast date. It’s not necessarily a national audience, so I feel a little more comfortable doing it.
Continue reading My Complicated Life
Well it was bound to happen again. Remember my Toronto Star article on avian flu? Evan Solomon’s show, CBC News Sunday on CBC Newsworld, contacted me to ask if I’d like to be interviewed on the show to talk about the epidemic. While I, ever the eager media whore, was excited by the prospect, I did the responsible thing and told the producer that I’m not a true expert on avian flu, and that she should seek to acquire some engaged in direct research on the topic. Alas.
About two years ago, while I was living in Washington, I wrote a similar article for The Star on SARS. This one was so popular it was picked up by the wires and I was interviewed on CFRB radio. I was then contacted by CBC Newsworld in Washington for a live TV interview. Luckily that one didn’t go forward since I was not a SARS expert either.
So if there are any media producers reading this, let me be clear. I am very happy to do your shows. But I’m an epidemiology generalist with a strong focus on international health issues. If you’re looking for an expert on a highly specific topic, I’m not your guy. However, if you’d like someone to talk about general concepts and challenges to global health, I can be quite eloquent and photogenic when the stars are aligned appropriately 😉
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