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8/31/2005
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Katrina Aftermath: An Internet Story

Not knowing. That desperation can be seen in thousands of notes, many heart-wrenching, being left on message boards run by nola.com, the online publisher of The Times-Picayune newspaper of New Orleans.

Not knowing.

That desperation can be seen in thousands of notes, many heart-wrenching, being left on message boards run by nola.com, the online publisher of The Times-Picayune newspaper of New Orleans.Like millions of Americans, I'm glued to the TV viewing the reports on the Gulf Coast devastation. This morning, I read disconcerting stories in the morning paper about people trying to survive the aftermath of Katrina. And, while at work, I periodically check the news sites on the Web for the latest updates, including streaming video reports.

But postings such as those at nola.com found on the Internet provide a personal glimpse of Katrina that often is missed by the mass media. It's another example how the Internet is changing the ways news is gathered and disseminated. No filter here, as you read disturbing messages posted by people worried about the welfare of loved ones or trying to find out if their homes still exist. Here's a sampling of messages posted around midnight Tuesday.

"My mother and father are trapped in a house," DenverSaint from Colorado writes. "They are both in their 80s. My mother has a heart condition, and my father has emphysema. They are terribly frightened, and fear that they won't make it through the night. Please somebody help. ..."

"My daughter, Alexandra, has been at the hospital since Friday," writes Elizabeth. "I heard from her last night, she lost her home in Violet. I haven't been able to reach her today 8/30. As the water is rising, I have visions of terror. ..."

BikePatrol gives a news report: "The area from Jefferson Avenue to Audubon Park have been dry up until this point 10:30 as I understand from phone conversations earlier today. Looting has hit the shops along Magazine scaring my relatives to evacuate. The Radio Shack was smashed in on Magazine and the Circle K."

The section of the nola.com site -- What's Happened To My Neighborhood, found on the bottom left of the homepage -- isn't the only example of the average person contributing content to mainstream news organizations. We see TV and cable networks broadcasting amateur video of the disaster captured on video-equipped cell phones. You, not just pros like me, are the reporters.

As a provider and consumer of news, I like the fact that information flows from everywhere.

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