Sunday, February 14, 2010

Rock on, gatekeepers in the age of the internet.

I was given a challenge this week. To test the power of the internet, I needed to find the answer to three questions using just the intar-webz.
  • What did Gov. Beverly Perdue’s last campaign finance report show for cash on hand?
  • How many voters are registered in NC–and what is the breakdown of R, D, and I?
  • Pick a prof–any prof at UNC–and find his/her salary.
I started by simply googling "bev perdue's campaign finance report cash on hand." I found some older reports from 2008, but was not able to find the most recent. So I just googled "Bev Perdue's 'campaign finance report'", thinking I would be able to find the document on some government site. But I couldn't. What I could find, however, was a number of news sites reporting on her finance report, revealing undisclosed flights. Control+F hand="$530,257 on hand as of Dec. 31." And I was done. I trust AP.

For the voter breakdown, I just went to the N.C. Board of Elections Web site (admittedly, I had a bit of an unfair advantage on this one--I wrote a story for the DTH on voter turnout in Orange County in November, so I already knew where this information was). This information is across the top of the site: "Voter Registration as of 02/14/2010 2,734,258 1,918,603 6,733 1,378,937 6,038,531"

Little bit of math gets me here:
  • Republicans: 31.2 percent
  • Democrats: 45.3 percent
  • Libertarian: 0.11 percent
  • Independent: 22.8 percent
UNC professors' salaries. This one will undoubtedly be the most fun of all.
This one was quite difficult. I searched Google for UNC-CH professor salaries, and found nothing. After several variations on this I tried "unc system professors" and found a search engine for UNC system salaries on the News and Observer Web site. I plugged in my News Writing professor, Ryan Thornburg, and boom: $70,010. That's more than I can ever dream to make, sweet!

Here's the interesting thing about this: for two out of three of these questions, I wouldn't have been able to find the answers without the help of newspapers. Newspapers, in a lot of ways, are still the gatekeepers of information.

This process would be ridiculously hard without the news resources of the internet.

But I wouldn't be able to find the last answer in a newspaper, either.

Internet enhances newspapers. They're still being used. The articles are still being read. News resources are still valuable, especially for niche information.

The only answer that was difficult for me to find was the salaries one. I thought this was supposed to be public information. Yet, when I just typed in UNC specifically, I couldn't find it. I can honestly say that without newspapers I probably wouldn't be able to find this.

Rock on, gatekeepers.
Rock on, newspapers.

-Kelly Poe

1 comment:

  1. Nice post. I guess we should make this easier to find, but the DTH also enables you to search online for salaries: (and check out the data page itself because there's some other cool things: