Is Google’s Flu Trends site cool, or what? Say Google didn’t figure this out. Say a jurno did. Hey. It could happen. This is how:
One day, a snuffly, misable, virus-laden jurno types in “flu symptoms” to see if what she has is indeed the flu. She searches for the latest remedy floating around cyberspace, and, for curiosity’s sake, checks out the CDC site to see how hard the flu’s hitting the U.S., and, in particular, her town. The CDC site says Columbia, MO, doesn’t have a whit of flu. Jurno knows better; half her friends are misable. They’ve been passing around news about the latest remedy — some cinnamon-honey-goat cheese concoction — from their surfing sessions. Hmmm. She checks the CDC site to find out how it gets its info. Wow. A two-week delay between gathering data on the ground and passing it up the line. Wouldn’t just tracking locations and hits for “flu, flu symptoms, flu remedy, flu shots, etc.” give a better picture?
Google thought of this, and showed the CDC that this approach would work: for them and for the rest of us potential flu victims. But a real jurno could have. A real jurno would also know that the best way to present all this info would not be in 1,000 words of text, but in an interactive graphic. A real jurno wouldn’t necessarily do it; she’d call upon her two partners: the database guru and the graphics goddess. They’d figure out the map and chart that update automatically; two searchable databases, one to zero in on state flu levels, the other to find places to get flu shots; an RSS feed with flu news; and a link to the CDC. The jurno would dash off a definition of the flu. [All this Google actually did.] A real jurno would also work with the graphics goddess to put together an interactive graphic of how the flu virus invades and multiples in the body. And she’d provide a spot on the flu trends site for people in the community to offer up their home remedies, and have flu experts rate them one to five stars, and explain why they don’t or do work. [Google actually didn't do this.]
Voila! A Web shell about the flu. And the news runs through it.
The point: Jurnos are Web-savvy adventurous journalists charging into Webworld with trumpets blaring and video-cellphones recording every move. They understand how this medium works and they use all its bells and whistles to serve their communities in the best ways possible.
btw, just since last week, the flu marched into a few more states, heading east from Kentucky and Mississippi. If I were living in Tennessee or North Carolina, I’d be wearing a mask over my mouth, goggles over my eyes, and rolling up my sleeve for a flu shot.