There is a demonstration by supporters of the Tamil Tigers of NorthEast Sri Lanka at the Toronto midtown corner of Bloor and Yonge Streets. It is notable because this is a continuing series of ever more heated protests so the police and TV media are out to “cover” the protest each in its own ways. I am interested because of the number of victims cited in the above protest sign – 5,00,000 ??? I decided I wanted to see how quickly I could get useful and “non-inflamed” information about the “number” and the situation.

Since I was next to the Toronto Muncipal Library – I went there and got on one of the more than 300 free web connected terminals. I did not go to any of the TV stations covering the story – needless to say they would not have any links to useful information. Instead I tried the Toronto Star and the GlobeandMail first. The GlobeandMail had the background story but it is Toronto bound. The Toronto Star went well beyond the immediate protest articles and filled in the blanks on the broader Sri Lanka picture very well here. But the best resources were- Surprise Surprise -Google and wikipedia. Google led me to the superb novel by Canadian/Sri Lankan author Michael Ondaatje which tells the story in “captivating” style in Anil’s Ghost. As one finds in the novel, this civil war is very nasty and very brutish on all sides.

So what did we learn about getting quick and cogent info on this flashpoint. TV coverage was lowest on the totem pole, the newspapers of mixed but better value, but Google and Wikipedia the best and quickest. Does that tell you another why the Web is dominating radio, television, and even newspapers and magazines on getting people’s eyeballs and attention and therefore advertisers dollars?

PS: The number 5,00,000 is 500,000 and that is roughly the number of Tamils exposed (but not dying) like in the Gaza strip fighting zones. For a comparison, the Gaza Strip has a population of 1.5M in 139 square miles versus 0.6M in about 2000 square miles much of it wooded lands in Northeast Sri Lanka.