SANDY BERGER: The Web Is a Great Source for News, But Be Careful
By now everyone in the country has heard about the Swine Flu, or to be more politically correct, H1N1.
But where did you hear about it? Most of us first took notice of this possible pandemic through the television. Yet we have also read about it in newspapers and magazines, heard about it on radio, and, of course, searched for it on the Internet.
This is a great example of how news is disseminated through the various news outlets and how it differs depending on where you get your information. Most television and print publications are walking a fine line between presenting sensational news and realizing that it is important to keep everyone from panicking.
While major news outlets on the Web also seem to walk that line, some of the flu coverage on the Web has no bounds. They are ready, willing and able to help promote a panic.
This also brings up the fact that while television and newspapers are at least somewhat credible, the news on the Internet is not necessarily so. While we must be judicious about any information that we get, if we get that information from the Internet, we should be doubly discerning.
There is a great Google map that shows the flu cases and fatalities all over the world. Different color dots are used for confirmed and suspected cases. As I write this, according to the Google map, there is a suspected case very close to our area. It will be interesting to see if that case was confirmed or not. Just go to www.maps.google.com and type in H1N1 to see the map that I was looking at.
Be careful now, because if you type in Swine Flu, you will get an entirely different map. While the information may be similar, it is not identical as you might expect, if both maps were completely accurate. There is another map called the HealthMap at www.healthmap.org. It might be interesting to check that one out as well.
No matter how many different maps and different Web sites you look at, the bottom line is that Internet information is not always accurate. In fact, it is not always true at all. Opinions abound on the Internet.
Just check out a few of the social networking Web sites. Or even better, check out Twitter (www.twitter.com). Twitter is a site where millions of people send short text messages about what they are doing or about what they think about various things.
Hundreds of millions of these short messages go through Twitter every day. Some people send a hundred or more messages a day. As you would expect, the swine flu is a hot topic on Twitter. I checked out Twitter to see what people were saying and here are just a few of their Tweets.
"We should draw a pig nose on each swine flu mask."
"Swine flu! Everybody run for the hills! Max out your credit cards! The world is ending!"
"Come o, Swine Flu, hurry up and reduce the surplus population "
"I think swine flu is just God's way of bringing Michael Jackson style back. I'm goin' to buy a mask tomorrow."
"Stupid swine flu has me paranoid!!! Kill or be killed, right?! I say quarantine the infected now!!!! Save humanity!!!!"
"My intestines feel as if they might explode and I have absolutely no energy to do any home work. Might this be swine flu? Or last semester-itis?"
This will give you an idea of what people are saying about the flu. But after reading hundreds of comments like these, you will probably want to get your information from more reputable sources.
A few of those sources may be the Center for Disease Control (CDC) at www.cdc.gov/swineflu or the World Health Organization at www.who.int. The Red Cross has flu preparedness information at www.redcross. org.
You might also want to check out the major news outlets online. But wherever you go for your information, remember you can't believe everything you see, read or hear!
Sandy Berger welcomes all of your questions and comments on today's column. Please post them on the Compu-Kiss Message Board at www.compukiss.com/happycomputing.
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