The web’s vast availability of data can lead to confusion

Posted 2/7/19

I remember being mistrustful of the Internet, back in its formative years.

Still clinging to bound books and libraries and old-fashioned research tools like microfilm, I held to an uneasiness …

Please register for an account to continue reading

You can view up to 3 stories each month, then registration is required.

If you have an account with us, please log in below to continue.

Otherwise, please register for an account here. Registration is easy, and takes just a minute.

Please log in to continue

Log in

The web’s vast availability of data can lead to confusion

Thanks for reading Chatham County’s leading news source! Please consider supporting community journalism by subscribing to the News + Record – you can do so by clicking here.

Posted

I remember being mistrustful of the Internet, back in its formative years.

Still clinging to bound books and libraries and old-fashioned research tools like microfilm, I held to an uneasiness about this new thing.

While I recognized its possibilities, I couldn’t embrace something like, for example, Wikipedia as a reliable source.

That was in the Internet’s infancy. Today, I recognize this “new” tool as indispensible. What are we without Google? I shudder to think.

But I’m reminded of the phrase “The more things change, the more they stay the same,” because in spite of the advances we’ve made in leaps and bounds over the last couple of decades in the availability of knowledge about everything from A to Z, we sometimes appear more confused than ever.

The emergence of “fake news” and “alternative facts” as phenomena over the past couple of years hasn’t helped. Who do you trust?

The Worldwide Web, as its name indicates, has opened up the world to us, but it’s also made it more vital than ever to know the sources of the information we’re reading.

When I first started working for The Chatham News in the long-ago 90s, we weren’t wired for the Internet, because — if memory serves — nobody was.

Now everybody is wired for it and it’s an essential part of our — and everybody else’s — news-gathering.

As valuable as it is, though, it presents issues that didn’t exist before.

For instance, I get quite a lot of email now originating from the state of Georgia.

Why would a weekly newspaper in the center of North Carolina get inundated with news from Georgia? Because in Georgia, there’s another Chatham County, and I’m guessing people Googling Chatham County come up with information about our Chatham County and their Chatham County and then don’t bother to determine the difference.

So because of the Internet, I’ve landed on a lot of mailing lists for Chatham County, Georgia.

And the confusion doesn’t end there. I had to read one recent email about an upcoming fundraiser very carefully before I could determine that the event was taking place somewhere in the United Kingdom. There was a reference to something Chatham in the press release, but it wasn’t our Chatham.

Chatham County is named, of course, after William Pitt, the1st Earl of Chatham, whose portrait hangs in our Historic Chatham County Courthouse in Pittsboro.

A lot of places — including the two Chatham counties, Pittsboro, Pitt County (N.C.) and the city of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania — are named for William Pitt.

I know this from prior knowledge and because I double-checked the information with Wikipedia, which has a thorough entry on William Pitt.

But just because it’s on the Internet doesn’t make it so.

And just because my e-mail address has “chatham” in it, doesn’t make me in any way connected to Georgia or somewhere in the United Kingdom.

Facts are still facts, but the easy availability of information these days make it more important than ever to do due diligence. Such is the world — including all of its Chathams — we live in today.

Comments

No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment