Pandemic flu hits blogosphere

I’ve been tracking how the pandemic flu is being covered over the past few months, and notice a spike in interest across many cities, scary media stories, a military-styled exercise. The blogosphere has suddenly become engaged in this.

Blogging a pandemic I. SDHD PanFlu BlogEx, a blog by the Southeastern District Health Department in Pocatello, Idaho is nothing to sneeze at. It is using a blog format to ‘report’ an outbreak within a two-week period using news-like headlines, fact-filled blog posts, videos and and links to external agencies. I like the fact that comments are open to the public. Every carries this disclaimer in red: “This is an exercise. It is not real.”

Unlike most What-If exercises (considered table-top exercises by the Dept. of Homeland Security) a global event like this cannot be contained by governments and medical professionals. There is a huge public component, not to mention a media component. Information will spread fast through whatever channels are available and it is not a stretch to assume that the blogosphere will upstage the traditional media in the same way it did during recent crises, such as the London bombings and the Asian tsunami. People will upload videos from their phones. Paramedics will provide advice via home made videos published on Youtube. Citizen journalists will break stories from far flung places before Newsweek or Catie Couric even get there –if flights to affected areas will even be possible. This format with potential for greater collaboration and dissemination is truly worth exploring.

Blogging a pandemic II: One Michael Coston, a paramedic, maintains a blog called Avian-Flu diary. He’s onto something, being a sort of a paramedic-meets CitJo.

On similar lines, the Kaiser Network is hosting a web conference called “The Health Blogosphere: What It Means for Policy Debates and Journalism” today at 1 p.m. Eastern time.

ASU fired the first shot? I like to think we had a head start on some of these. Our ‘hybrid’ Pandemic Flu exercise at ASU’s Decision Theater in April this year took the table-top model in a new direction, using the collaboration tools of the Theater with rich media inputs, and scenarios.

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