VIRAL JOURNALISM….This week brings yet another example of the bold, creative, and freespirited approach to journalism of our major newsweeklies: not only do they all have the same cover story ? not unreasonable under the circumstances ? but their art departments all had exactly the same idea for their cover pictures. I guess the Economist gets a modest bit of extra credit for using Mao’s picture underneath the mask, but you really have to wonder what’s going on when not one of them managed to come up with a unique way of illustrating this story.

The big news of the day, of course, is the SARS riot in Chagugang, brought on by residents fearful that a local junior high school would be turned into a ward for urban SARS patients (fears that appear to have been well founded, despite the spin of Chinese officials that “The villagers are unscientific, and trusted rumors.”)

The New York Times reports that Chagugang is a “rural town,” and Matt Yglesias remarks that “The fact that this is taking place in rural China rather than the urban/student/intellectual crowd strikes me as significant.”

Take this with a grain of salt, however. Chagugang is a small town, but it’s only a few miles north of Tianjin, a city of 10 million, and is home to the “Liudaokou lndustrial Zone,” which somehow doesn’t strike me as the kind of thing you’d find in a pastoral little village. (Not coincidentally, I’m sure, it’s also only about 40 miles from Beijing.)

Overall, SARS news is mostly bad. It’s peaked in a few places, but still expanding in China, and possibly also in India and Indonesia. The crisis is far from over.

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