Google has placed a choice weapon in my hands for following news. They even solve one of my pet peeves, that newspapers will cover a breaking story and then never tell you, months later, what happened to it.
My new Google weapon is News Alerts. They allow me to specify a search. I let Google run the search once a day on new news, and email me the hits. I have five alerts going right now (I wonder what's going to happen to Deborah Davis?), and they're turning my email into a rather informative read. Ten or fifteen Alerts could turn me into a well-informed citizen.
But here's the depressing part: News Alerts will tell me about topics I'm aware of. Who's going to fill me in on topics I didn't know about, when all the good newspapers go out of business? 2005 has been a bad year for newspapers, but I believe that the commercial news sources that all news reporters rely on are paid for by the ailing papers. And the intelligent decisions about what news to feature are still mostly made by newspapers. I fear the day when we will have made the papers obsolete.
UPDATE: My Google Alert was scammed! I received an email, formatted exactly like an alert, for a subject I'd never heard of (nor made and alert for), referring me to some dubious meds. After I clicked on the link, I came back – puzzled – to the alert, realized I'd never made an alert for “Jason somebody”, and deleted the email.