March 18th, 2009


Internet Runners

Recently, talk show host Bill Maher oversaw a spat between two of his guests about whether Rush Limbaugh was a racist.
Parhaphrased, one person said, "That's a pretty serious accusation. Give me one example of something he said that was racist."
The other person brought up Limbaugh's 2004 comments about an NFL player - remarks that, at the time, got him fired from his post.
Incredibly, that was the only example mentioned, and no one could directly quote the man.

So here's what I think is going to happen.

Before this year is over, we are going to see talk show hosts, and their guests, arm themselves with what I am going to call "Internet Runners". An Internet Runner's job is to sit nearby, just off camera or just beyond the range of the mic, with an internet-enabled laptop and a portable USB printer. They listen to what their boss is talking about, and pull up reference material on the internet that can be employed to back up their boss in a fight.

Kind of a modern cross between a reference clerk at a library and a "copy boy" at a newspaper. The job will require brilliant search engine skills, quick thinking, and a certain measure of trust. The best Internet Runners will render their employers immune to reproaches like, "Give me one example," "That's a bogus statistic," and the often heard, "He never actually said that."

I don't know which label is best: "Reference Assistant", "Internet Runner", "Internet Copy Boy", etc... But now that we've got 3G wireless internet, ultraportables, and compact printers, the time has come for this job to appear. No more smuggling newspaper clippings in your back pocket a-la Jello Biafra on Oprah. If you can't afford your own runner, you can put an entire encyclopedia right on your iPod touch, and keep that in your front pocket.