I have a large and very cute pink pig balloon from the recent Cochon 555 event in Boston floating over my dining area table. He's losing helium fast. Does he have swine flu?A friend jokingly told me yesterday: "Get out fast! You're in danger!"This silly question is intended to point out the ridiculousness of the mass media's approach to a serious story - an approach that can only intensify the public's fear and even, perhaps, incite panic as government officials track the spread of this previously unknown virus which, by the way has NOTHING to do with eating pork.The timing of the discovery of this potentially serious virus is not good - the possibility of a downturn in international travel as the European Union warns against non-essential travel to the US, is serious.What is it about bad news - or casting news in a way that makes it frightening - that sells papers? I'm not Pollyanna but it's getting to be ridiculous. Of course a virus to which we have no immunity is a matter for alarm. But the way stories take on a life of their own is cause for concern too, particularly when they have serious and potentially severe economic consequences.