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Information Gone Wild: Good News about Alerts

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Faster than a speeding bullet. More powerful than a locomotive. Able to leap tall buildings. Check your inbox. It's a Google Alert! Taking us to infinity and beyond. (Perhaps I'm messing up my hero references.) Point being Google does what the 6 o'clock News and our daily papers never could. And it's changing our lives.

Google Alerts ensure a diversity of opinion, granting us some powerful abilities over our own news gathering abilities. There's so much gosh darn news and opinion or newsy opinion from so many sources that it's mindboggling! Google's ubiquitous news gathering collects information, providing us all with our own personal newspaper. So, do you think I have stock in this company--or what?

Back in the day - whenever that was - we all got our current events fix from the same source. It was hard to have an opinion that differed from that of the mainstream media. The total sum of the information out there wasn't available to the public.

The Denver events this week were publicized in sharp ways from every angle and made informed Americans see a way to a fresh start. There was, to be sure, nonstop coverage and ubiquitous commentary from all the networks, all the media, all the sites, all the time. Bloggers were offering opinions the second they got them. And accessible reports were going out every second.

That was far from the case just a short while ago.

During the 1968 Democratic National Convention, which was the apex of the hippie movement, a bloody riot arose between the protestors and the police. This unseemly ruckus was narrowly reported by the media reporting the events in Chicago and national coverage brought us only snippets of madness, but not more. The media didn't say who started the riots; no one proffered a clue as to who instigated them from the get-go.

Judging only by what they were told, the news takers turned their backs on the protestors, saying it was their fault and claiming the police had a right.

When people see the coverage that came from Dem '68, they are head-shaking shocked. The protesters had every right to be there and were behaving relatively peacefully. We know the riots were begun by the police who were horribly insensitive and crossing a line that today would land them in jail. That point of view never got to the people. We did not have a way to find it.

In the era of Google News (a/k/a "The Eye of Sauron" or the fabulous frenzy of facts) we are in the know whenever we choose and we can choose our news whenever and from wherever. What Google is capable of doing is getting us the speed, breadth and option for dialogue. It has transformed the way we access and it makes us better "conversers" about what's happening in our world and others'.

Google News and all those alerts you get may seem like a pain in the arse on occasion, but imagine the alternative.

I'm Richard Laermer, author of 2011: Trendspotting.