By DAVID FURONES
With the status quo of personal information cataloged on the Internet, a background check on any subject is figuratively at your fingertips (and literally, if your fingers are already hovering over a keyboard).
Covering the Teen Choice Awards, but you’re not even aware that “Bieber Fever” is not a legitimate medical illness? No worries. Covering the NBA, but all you know about Dwyane Wade is that his parents are horrendous name-spellers? Not a problem.
The web’s overall database has consistently grown exponentially to the point where one can type a famous name into Google and receive 1.9 million results in .07 seconds. A journalist can quickly pop a laptop open and get some background research done on a subject they’ll be meeting five minutes before an interview. In that time frame, one can locate Wade’s personal website, his on-the-court statistics and accomplishments, a biography detailing his upbringing in Chicago and even his latest Twitter post all within the first page of Google results.
For college students today, researching individuals online comes as naturally as posting pictures of themselves in an inebriated state on Facebook. The practice transcends journalism as students constantly find themselves looking up the professors they’ll have classes with in upcoming semesters on ratemyprofessors.com. It’s safe to say that Prof. Garrison was a safe pick for my Reporting and the Internet course with an overall rating of 4.5 on a 5.0 scale. Speaking honestly, I can’t even begin to fathom how much more difficult news and information gathering was before the invention of the Internet. The World Wide Web has facilitated a process that once would take several days (endless hours at the library, making calls, meeting experts on a particular topic) to a mere 20 minutes surfing the internet.
It doesn’t even have to be a celebrity or a professor that a student is researching. In today’s day and age, virtually everyone’s information is posted on the Internet and the best part is that mostly all of it is presented to the world voluntarily. Social networking sites (namely Facebook and Twitter) allow users to display anything and everything that makes them unique. You want to know a little more about the high school student that gave you those great quotes on that story about the stabbing at his school? Just put that stalker hat on and search away on Facebook.