Just an Online Minute... Primary Sources

by , Sep 17, 2001, 12:00 AM
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While in the grand scheme of things it hardly matters which medium was the primary source for news or outreach for most Americans on 9-11, the latest report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project confirmed that the Internet was not it. It was television. Some 81% of all Americans say they got most of their information from TV compared to just 3% who went online.

And while instant messenger was heaven-sent to some, most people still reached for the telephone first. Pew says that on Tuesday, 51% of American adults called family members and 40% called friends about the crisis. About a quarter of Americans tried to reach someone to try to find out if she or he was safe.

Pew says that Internet users were more likely than non- Internet users to be using the phone to reach out to potential victims. More than 70 million Internet users tried to make phone calls to family members and friends on Tuesday. More than a third of those Internet users who tried to place calls (35%) had trouble getting through and a fifth of them turned to the web to make contact. That comes to between 4-5 million people who turned to the Internet because phones weren't working well enough for them.

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On that same day, more than a seventh of Internet users (15%) sent email about the crisis to family members and 12% sent email to friends. Pew says that more women did this than men. In addition, 6% of Internet users sent instant messages to someone on Tuesday, which Pew researchers says is about the same level of use of instant messaging that takes place on any given day.

Compared to an average day, a far greater number of Internet users than normal tried to go to online news sites. Overall, 36% of Internet users went online looking for news in the first two days after the attacks. On Tuesday alone, 29% of Internet users - or more than 30 million people - sought news online (that is one-third greater than the news-seeking population on a typical day). About 43% of them said they had problems getting to the sites they wanted to access. Of those who had trouble, 41% kept trying to get to the same site until they finally reached it; 38% went to other sites, 19% gave up their search. Pew's final assessment: For some, the Internet was a help. Some 30% of Internet users say the web helped them learn about what was going on in the first days after the attacks occurred and 29% say the Internet helped them connect with people they needed to reach.

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