Spam legislation is welcome
Every once in a while, there is a new discovery or development that changes everything. It may be a medical breakthrough that leads to the elimination of a particular disease and the suffering it's caused, or a leap forward in technology that simplifies everyday tasks.
Once such an advance takes hold, and becomes part of our culture, there is a shift in the way we lead our lives, at home, professionally, or both. We move forward faster, with greater confidence, as we have one less worry to face. Or perhaps we're just more informed, or better able to communicate with those around us than we've been in the past.
The internet has certainly been such an advance. Speaking professionally, the internet and the technologies that have sprung up around it have certainly added a lot to the world of community newspapering.
Thanks to our ability to go online, readers can use e-mail to send us letters to the editor, write-ups and photographs, ideas about interesting features, or tips about news stories we need to check out. And that's something we encourage. Anything that makes it easier for our readership to be a part of what we do here is a big positive for us.
Thanks to our website, Brewton and East Brewton natives living anywhere in the country -- or the world, for that matter -- can log onto www.brewtonstandard.com and keep up with what's going on back here at home. It hasn't always been that easy.
Readers aren't the only ones who benefit. Our advertisers are also able to communicate with us over the internet, sending us artwork and even completed ads so that we can more efficiently let readers know about the goods and services they have to offer.
Whether interacting with a reader or advertiser, nothing can ever replace the pleasure of meeting with them face-to-face, and for the most part that's still how we do business. But the busy lives people lead today -- and the distances over which information sometimes has to be sent -- often make such one-on-one dealings difficult, or even impossible. In such cases, the internet is a great help.
And from a production standpoint, the internet plays a crucial role in how we put together each edition of The Standard.
Each of our pages is composed on a computer screen, then sent by e-mail to our press. This transfer takes places almost instantly, and that quick turnaround time makes it easier for us to get the paper into subscribers' driveways and mailboxes according to schedule. For our business, and many others, the internet has been a wonderful tool.
But, like many technological advances, the ability to go online can be a double-edged sword.
For just as newspapers and similar businesses have found ways to use the internet to become more efficient, so have some others. And as anyone who has opened an inbox filled with "spam" mailings can tell you, those behind the annoying, unwanted messages have raised internet usage to a high -- and highly annoying -- art.
Spam, for those who don't use e-mail, is the term used to describe unwanted solicitations that are sent -- millions upon millions at a time -- into e-mail inboxes everywhere, whether the recipients want the messages or not. They are the internet equivalent of calls from telemarketers, but they come by the dozen or the score, rather than only one inconvenience at a time.
Here at the paper, we've grown pretty tired of them. That's why I'm as happy as anyone that right now, as I'm writing this column, President George W. Bush is scheduled to be seated in the Oval Office, signing into law a piece of legislation known as the "Can Spam Act." Passed by Congress earlier this month, the act takes steps toward outlawing some of the misleading tactics used by many "spammers," and also encourages the Federal Trade Commission to set up a do-not-spam list of e-mail addresses modeled after the do-not-call lists aimed at thwarting telemarketers.
It's a step in the right direction anyone who uses e-mail at work can easily get behind.
Certainly, there are plenty of other ways the internet can be both good and bad, with the bad being potentially more problematic than an inbox full of spam. While it places a wealth of information and entertainment at our fingertips, it also makes it all too easy for people -- especially young people -- to be exposed to harmful images and influences.
The new anti-spam laws are going to be an improvement for those of us who use the internet during the course of doing business, but we also encourage our readers to put their own "laws" into effect, to protect those they care about from the dangers that are out there on the web.
It's a great way to expand your knowledge. And to keep in touch, with family, friends, even your local newspaper. But as spammers have shown, not everyone out there uses the internet with the proper motives or restraint.
-John Dilmore Jr. is publisher of The Brewton Standard. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org