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Balanced media coverage of the A(H1N1), or swine flu, outbreak in India has largely been confined to inner pages or overshadowed by sensationalist and unrepresentative headlines, says Kalpana Sharma, writing in The Hoot.

Both television stations and newspapers have focused almost exclusively on swine flu stories, without mentioning that the outbreak has affected far fewer people than other diseases prevalent in the country. Sharma argues that this is because swine flu mainly impacts the urban middle-classes, whereas many diseases that result in more deaths hit rural areas hardest.

Some newspapers such as the Hindustan Times have attempted to provide readers with context. But this newspaper employs a full-time health correspondent: most Indian newspapers are not willing to do the same, which means that they are less able to provide even-handed coverage of crises, says Sharma. Areas like health require dedicated resources and constant attention and coverage, she adds.

Link to the full article in The Hoot