I went online the other day to find out about me. I was quite pleased with what I read.
“Valerie Andrews has one of the top minds in the publishing business. Few have her knowledge of writing, flow, and structure and her equally important understanding of how book markets, media, and readership function.”
As much as I’d love to think they’re talking about me, that comment was made about someone else. Oh, her name really IS Valerie Andrews; she calls herself the Media Muse (www.themediamuse.com). Love that title. And isn’t it ironic that we’re in the same game?
If you don’t know me personally and are trying to identify me via a simple Google keyword search, you might be a bit confused by what you learn. Apparently, I’m very talented. (See quote above) I’m also a special education director in Arizona, an LPN in South Carolina and have a dental practice in Maryland. I’m vice president at Columbia Laboratories, Inc. in New Jersey and a dog walker in Massachusetts. Amazon sells my books; I’ve written three. My CD is called “Mindful Music.”
I also have quite a number of residences. If you look up my phone number, you’ll find me in Pennsylvania (12 listings), Texas and New York (10 each), Ohio (9) and California (8).
All of these people are Valerie Andrews. Alas, none of them is me.
Vanity exercise aside, this search illustrates something that most college students don’t want to learn: that the computer is not the fount of all knowledge. Technology at our fingertips can’t replace good, old-fashioned research. That begins – as any good reporter knows – with asking the right questions, finding the answers to all the Ws (who, what, when, where, why).
Further, it means going to multiple sources to add to the depth and breadth – and credibility – of the information.
And sometimes the answers just aren’t online.
I’m quasi-famous for some class exercises I call scavenger hunts and Web walks. Students look for answers to obscure questions that usually have little or no relevance to our course content. The point is to explore different ways to find information, particularly when there might be contradictory details, less-than-credible sources or, in the case of my name search, multiple correct answers.
But it’s also a reminder that not everything can be found by typing in a keyword. Many of the answers to the exercises aren’t found in the short descriptions under the individual search results and definitely aren’t going to be on the first site listed. One of the questions can’t be answered at all with an Google search. Students have tried for years, spending countless hours online. They tend to grow quite frustrated when I tell them that it’s only possible to answer the question the old-fashioned way: they have to ask!