Five at 8: 5/4/09

I’ve missed you so, Monday morning rouser:

  • The New York Times assesses the Internet’s ability to reflect the status of the “don’t call me Swine, what have you got against pigs” flu. “We are seeing in sharp relief the difference between the Internet as an alarm bell — OMG, everybody is freaking out! — and the Internet as a mirror to society that potentially can reveal so much more about how people are living,” it says, citing a dubious method of reflection — the number of times the illness is mentioned on Facebook walls. A University of Iowa professor says Twitter is also better way to assess the flu’s impact because “people are more likely to say I feel terrible on Twitter, rather than going to the doctor.” These examples would appear to assume that people who mention the illness actually have the illness.

    Nonetheless, Google Flu Trends is getting high marks for reflecting the illness’s intensity based on search terms. As of this morning, Alaska seems to be the only state basket case. Google, by the way, just started a Flu Trends for Mexico, nearly two weeks after the old-fashioned method alerted the world to the problem.

  • I’ve been gone for the last two weeks, burning up some accumulated vacation time. I drove back to Massachusetts to help around my mother’s house (my personal blog is here). There were two highlights of my week. One was passing truckload after truckload of new Ford Mustangs in Indiana — because Mustangs are still cool. The other was starting every morning with Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and the Boston Globe, still a darned good newspaper with an editorial section which actually takes stands on issues. And it still has the best sports section in American journalism. So it’s still hard for me to believe the New York Times, which owns the paper, is today reportedly ready to file a plant-closing notice with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

    Meanwhile, have you noticed the Save the Strib Web site — set up to rally public support for the paper — has profiled only three staffers so far and its “Comments of Support” section is headlined by a post comparing the paper to Pravda? (Update: @vtuss reports there are 11 profiles available.)

    Meanwhile, the hot rumor is that Kindle is going to be “supersized” for newspapers. A new report says time spent with online newspapers is increasing. It’s all the way up to 53 minutes a week.

  • YouTube helps man deliver a baby. Let’s see newspapers do that!
  • The Mankato Free Press profiles a band of flutes. Unfortunately, no audio or video.
  • Does an airline’s frequent flier program really make loyal customers for airlines? One would certainly think so given the battle between Delta Airlines and US Bank over the future of the bank’s WorldPerks credit card. But an expert on the subject says “no.” It’s so yesterday, he says. The current business travelers are going to retire soon, the story says, and will be replaced by the next generation that lives and breathes social media.

    Tangentially-related blog recommendation of the day: this flight attendant’s blog.


    Midmorning (9-11) – Getting a credit card bill of rights has been a tough sell no matter what party is in control of Congress. The financial/banking lobby is pretty powerful, which is a nice way of saying it throws a lot of campaign cash around. In the first hour, Rep. Keith Ellison joins Kerri Miller for a discussion on consumer credit legislation. The second hour discussion is with Simon Winchester, author of The Man Who Loved China.

    Midday (11-1) – A tradition continues. The new Minnesota Teacher of the Year is in the studio with Gary Eichten at 11. Find out why she thinks middle-school kids are cool. Second hour: Jane Mayer’s Humphrey Institute speech, “The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals.” Can’t wait? It’s posted online at the school’s Web site.

    Talk of the Nation (1-3): A former Bush campaign official discusses the future of the Republican Party and says the problem is tapping into “vibrant parts of the country.” Wait. There are “vibrant parts of the country”? In the second hour: The secret lives of boys, an exotic journey into the mind of creatures who only answer parental attempts at conversation with one-word answers.

    All Things Considered: (3-6:30) Now that the flood in the Red River Valley is over, are people interested in selling and moving? Dan Gunderson has that story. The show will also look at the question of whether surgical masks do anything to filter out the flu bug.

    And is the end near for Detroit’s famed Baker’s Keyboard Lounge, the world’s oldest jazz nightclub? Probably. Nothing is going right in Detroit.

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