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Ham-demic, served

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Jackpot. We did it. We hooked them in. We got their pulses racing. Yes, just like that, we're thrust back in the Master's Chair, resuming our places as Keepers of Information and Sharers of Secrets. And they are wrapped around our fingers, just adorable, desperate to read more, more, more.

This calls for a toast, whatta ya say? Gather round fellow media women and men. I've been saving this bottle of bubbly for a special occasion, and what better time to pop it than present? Together, let's raise our champagne glasses high and congratulate ourselves on the good work we did. And by good work, you know I really mean great. Frankly, we were absolutely fantastic.

Four weeks ago seems like a distant memory now, doesn't it?

All everyone was talking about then - when they saw us running around with our tape recorders and disheveled attire - was "Those poor newspaper folk." No room left for redemption; no afterthought to whether we could pull ourselves out of the downward spiral. With papers shutting down almost every week, and reporters being fired left and right, the big question floating through the air was: what would the world look like when newspapers finally kicked the bucket?

But then entered the lovable swine fline, trotting right into our laps; the pig of a disease that suddenly everyone, everywhere, no matter which continent they inhabited, wanted to read about. To understand. And to make sure they didn't contract.

And we were right there on the front lines, weren't we, reporting the details and soothing them with facts.

It's tough to say what it is about a good disease scare that panics people to such extremes. Every year, 1.2 million people die in car crashes. Another 250,000 to 500,000 people perish from regular ol' influenza. And this year 5,612 people were executed in Mexico's drug war. We've tried to grab people's attention with those facts and figures, but no one paid much attention. Once H1N1 broke out, though, and 56 people passed away, it is all anyone can focus on.

No denying, 56 deaths is not an insignificant number. And true, the virus's quick genetic jump from pigs to humans holds the potential for something catastrophic. After all, the Spanish Flu killed between 50 and 100 million people; The Asian Flu killed between one and four million people; and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) - though caused by the cornavirus not influenza - killed 774 people.

Still, people's panic over the hamdemic was slightly over the top. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for hysteria collectiva, especially when it sells the written word. But I think the reason people get so riled up over diseases is because they are caused by invisible, unpredictable matter. The type of stuff that even guns and inflated military budgets can't bring down. The killers that show themselves only through coughs, headaches, and nausea. The little buggers that even airport officials can't spot during routine baggage checks - no matter how many pairs of shoes and jackets passengers take off before passing through the detector.

And we milked that fear, didn't we?

For two weeks straight, almost every lead news story in almost every paper published around the world featured some sort of swine flu-related story. We made sure anyone with minimal flu symptoms checked into the E.R., pronto. We made sure to keep the suspense constantly rolling with hints in our copy of "this could explode any minute" and "perhaps the world could see the biggest death toll caused by disease since the plague."

Maybe some look upon us with distain now, but I like to think we saved journalism. Or, at least some shade of yellow coloured, overtly sensationalized journalism. Whatever, we're back on top. We're selling papers again. We're starting to see some dollars trickle back into our budgets. And we've stalled the death of newspapers, at least for a few more months.

So yes, let's cheer loud and clear and celebrate our mini-success. Let's keep the momentum going. Let's make sure swine flu continues to hog the spotlight. And let's keep our jobs, for now.

My, this champagne tastes delightful.

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