Via Glenn Reynolds, Ryan Sager contrasts the New York Times’ “responsible” non-reporting of the Swine Flu epidemic with Drudge’s “sensationalist” approach. Sager wonders which one was actually doing the most social good, and makes a good case for panic:

The argument for the Times’ approach, of course, is that it’s best not to sow panic. What could be more sensible? Panic = bad.
But let me propose an alternative: When it comes to epidemics, panic is a rational and socially beneficial response.

I would agree with that. Especially for families with children and frail or ailing members, canceling travel plans and even staying indoor might make a lot of sense.
There’s another important aspect of panic which also fails to take into account. My “panic” is my business. Whether or how I might panic is up to me, not the New York Times, or any other news source. Their job is to get me the effing news, and my job is to decide how to apply it to my life. The idea that I am not being told what happened because of the cringings of some self-appointed social planner fills me with a lot more horror than even a horrific news story.
This is not to say that I endorse sensationalism, or making people panic. Far from it; in the past week I’ve criticized hasty and sloppy reporting of an alleged “pit bull” attack in my area, but I don’t suggest the story is not news. The idea that people should not be told about a “pit bull” killing a child because they might panic and kill all “pit bulls” (or demand the passage of bad laws, which they might) is elitist thinking, and if carried to extremes, could end up causing more panic than it would prevent. No, news is news. Simply put, it is what happened. It is the job of news outlets tell us what happened, and leave it to us to decide how we might want to react to it.
Besides, like Ryan Sager, I’m having trouble with the Times’ logic. If the stock market crashes, the news might cause a panic. Does that mean we have no right to know? Or is there a double standard?
Is that it? Are we little folks only supposed to panic about some things, but not others? If so, then who gets to decide? (Sorry, but I don’t like having to panic on demand, either.)
Naturally, this makes me wonder what else I’m not learning about because it’s not being reported by the “responsible” non-reporters.
Or am I better off not knowing? Whose business should that be?