The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

This story is sort of "Internet circa 1998ish", but still noteworthy: A homemade website helped track down vehicular homicide fugitive Carlos Giddings in Clearwater.

Or did it? The victim's brother-in-law, Rolando Pozo, admitted that he figured the site describing the circumstances was a longshot to get any results. He was right; a site like that, even once indexed by search engines and RSS aggregators, would produce barely a ripple. But here's how it became instantly effective:
Last Thursday, Pozo's efforts were featured on the WTSP-TV Ch. 10 news. Pozo woke up Friday morning to find an anonymous e-mail, posted before dawn, that said authorities could find Giddings at a particular house in Clearwater.
That's the key: The story, including the website, was picked up by the local news, and that's what got the results. The website could have stayed up for months, and may never have attracted a single lead. But when it was featured on TV, which is the true mass medium, it became exposed to the widest possible audience, and that brought the crucial information.

I think we're still in the early stages of the digital age, where, for all the constant hype, the Internet is still far from being a ubiquitous medium. Everyone's aware of it, and accesses it often; but it's just not as in-your-face as traditional media. Depending on how it evolves, it may never get there; or it will, but not in a manner we can now predict or recognize.