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Where Will Your Google Trail Lead?



The woman, a former VH1 "veejay" and Food Network host from Clearwater, had one request for me, should I ever write about her again.

Could I please stop disclosing her age?

It seems this bubbly blonde was dating men who would plug her name into Google and check out her background. When her true age popped up, Game Over.

Which got me to thinking...are we all aware of our Google Trails?

USA Today had an interesting story recently about how students have been kicked out of school, lost scholarships and even arrested based on information contained on their pages assembled for social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace and Xanga.

Bob Thompson, a professor at Syracuse University and an expert on pop culture, predicts it won't be long before political candidates find they have a Google Trail which causes problems. Post a caustic review on an bulletin board or unload your beliefs on a hard-hitting blog page or Web site while you're a college student in your 20s, and you may see those comments resurface many years later.

The most dramatic demonstration of this dynamic was in the suicide of James Dungy, son of former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Tony Dungy. James maintained a MySpace page filled with references to gangsta rap, curse words and violent images -- a marked departure from his clean-cut image -- which were excavated following his death last year. Dungy had even accessed his page the day before he killed himself.

As the government presses Google in court today for access to records on what people are searching for, expect this question to only grow in importance. Search data could reveal trade secrets, personal quirks, hidden health problems, sexual orientation and more.

What might your Google trail reveal?

Media Helps Bring Attention to Two Controversial Crimes

I noticed it this morning, while listening to a report on National Public Radio about the results of a second autopsy for Martin Lee Anderson, a 14-year-old who died at a Panama City boot camp.

The announcer said a press conference was underway live; I switched on cable channel Bay News 9, and there it was -- a typical example of how media has worked in publicizing the Martin Lee Anderson case.

Indeed, there probably wouldn't even have been a second autopsy without the media, which broadcast a videotape showing camp guards beating Anderson, who is black, while a nurse looked on. The images generated a tsunami of outrage, forcing a state investigation and widespread questioning of the irst autopsy, which concluded Anderson died of sickle cell trait.

Local media has also looked hard at the case of Jean Claude Meus, a Haitian truck driver serving 15 years in prison for an accident which killed two people in Wauchula. WTVT-Ch. 13 reporter Doug Smith presented a story Monday noting that another trucker, Thomas Smith, had a similar accident in 2002, plowing into a group of cars and injuring an 82-year-old man who later died.

Three differences: Smith admitted falling asleep at the wheel, while Meus said he was cut off by another driver. Smith received a traffic citation from the same Highway Patrol investigators who concluded Meus was guilty of vehicular homicide.

And Smith is white, while Meus is black.

In both cases, media outlets have been able to pierce layers of bureaucracy and obfuscation to try shining a light on some questionable outcomes. It's enough to make you proud to be a journalist.

60 Minutes Legend Slows Down

It took until just before his 88th birthday, but 60 Minutes correspodent Mike Wallace has finally decided to slow down.

CBS announced today Wallace will serve as Correspondent Emeritus -- keeping an office in the building but dropping out of the regular lineup of reporters.

It seemed only a matter of time before such a move came -- 80-something executive producer Don Hewitt was pushed into retirement 18 moths or so ago, and the program has been featuring younger faces such as Lara Logan. According to CBS brass, Wallace has already filmed six pieces for the show, so his year's allotment was already half done.

I couldn't help thinking of the time I interviewed Hewitt during his last days on 60 -- stepping into an office filled with old school memorabilia (framed, 60s-era Esquire covers, plush leather chairs, a shelf of Emmys) enjoying his gruff, energetic, commanding attitude. He worked the room like Sinatra, with a crafty confidence and knowing charm -- with he and Wallace mostly out of the mix already, 60 Minutes feels like a very different beast.

Anyone taking bets on how long before they replace Andy Rooney with Jon Stewart?

*Apologies for the lack of images, but blogger doesn't seem to be allowing me to upload photos...

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 2:35pm]


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