Wednesday Edition: Internet Infidelity

The Internet is driving thousands of couples to the divorce courts. Growing numbers of people are turning to the Internet for solutions for failing partnerships. Beatriz Mileham, from the University of Florida, studied the impact of chat rooms on relationships. She predicted: "The internet will soon become the most common form of infidelity, if it isn't already." [CORRECTION: A previous version of this article misidentified the school as the University of Gainesville in Florida.]

See the news release about her study. The release said, "'Never before has the dating world been so handy for married men and women looking for a fling,' said Beatriz Avila Mileham, who conducted the research for her doctoral dissertation in counselor education at UF. 'With cybersex, there is no longer any need for secret trips to obscure motels. An online liaison may even take place in the same room with one's spouse.'

"In the words of one 41-year-old man in the study, 'All I have to do is turn on my computer, and I have thousands of women to choose from. (It) can't get any easier than that.'

"Counseling organizations report chat rooms are the fastest-rising cause of relationship breakdowns, and the problem only stands to get worse as today's population of Internet users, estimated at 649 million worldwide, continues to grow, Mileham said.

"In 2002, Mileham conducted in-depth online interviews with 76 men and 10 women, ages 25 to 66, who used Yahoo's 'Married and Flirting' or Microsoft's 'Married But Flirting,' Internet chat rooms geared specifically for married people. The study's participants, who represented every state, included stay-at-home mothers, construction workers, engineers, nurses, and presidents of large corporations. Some went online for a quick 'sex fix,' while others established more meaningful connections where they talked about personal problems, marital issues and things like that, Mileham said."

I called a marriage and family therapist, who happens to be my wife, and read this story to her. She told me she sees this problem in couples she counsels quite often. Clearly you can localize this story.

Crazy About Commemorations

Here is a story that you could also localize to state and city government.

The Arizona Republic reports (2nd item), "Last month, the U.S. House decided to honor Chicago Cubs star Sammy Sosa with a badly-timed resolution on the day before he was caught with a corked bat. Now, there's a new bill to award a Congressional Gold Medal to golfer Tiger Woods.

"In fact, there are currently (as of July 6) 695 pieces of such commemorative legislation (House or Senate) in this session of Congress, according to research being done by the staff of Trent Franks, a member of a group of House freshmen looking to cut government waste.

"Some of these bills touch on such topics as declaring a Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Awareness Month; expressing Congress' sense regarding the primary author and official home of 'Yankee Doodle'; commending India on its celebration of Republic Day; and the need to recognize the importance of blues music.

"Efforts by Franks' staff to find out how much all of this feel-good legislation is costing taxpayers has yielded mixed results, says his spokeswoman, Elaine Dalbo.

"A memo Dalbo received last week from Congressional Research Service states: 'It is difficult, if not impossible, to accurately calculate the cost of introducing or passing a piece of legislation, because it is so difficult to quantify staff time, utility costs, Capitol security costs, costs of printing floor discussions about the bill in the (Congressional) Record, and the costs of putting the individual piece of legislation on the Internet.'

"Dalbo also was given CRS research dating from 1990 finding that 'originally the purpose of declaring a special day, week, month, or year was intended to heighten public awareness of a noteworthy individual or event.' But some, CRS reported, now believe such commemorative legislation is 'becoming more and more of a boondoggle' and even 'symptomatic of congressional decline.'

"One CRS document included an estimate that the 1990 costs of commemorative legislation were as high as $1 million a year. But the research service says those numbers 'can't really be compared to today.'"

About a year ago, ABC News aired a story asking, "Do we really need a national Pretzel day?" Back then ABC reported: "Coming up with all these commemorative days was costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in printing costs, and wasting a third of the floor time in the House. (Although you might argue that's good, because it keeps them from doing worse things.) So seven years ago, the House changed its rules to ban new ones.

"Did that stop the waste? Of course not! Now lawmakers just suspend the rules and do it anyway.

"Congressman Danny Davis, D, Ill., explains how they do it. 'You kind of tweak the language in such ... such a way that you're not really commemorating but you're acknowledging,' he said."

Phone Services Fund Causes

The Chicago Tribune’s Kevin Pang sent a dandy story about long distance phone services that claim to donate part of their profits to everything from environmental causes and world health charities to Republican politicians and anti-abortion campaigns.

10 Cool Things to Look For in the Summer Sky has a list of cool stuff you can see with even a small telescope in July and August. It might be a good time to find your local astronomy club. Call local museums, planetariums, and universities or parks departments to find out where they meet.

Grocery Discount Cards

CBS News recently aired a story about a topic that I have written about in the past — those annoying discount cards that grocery stores want you to use. Twelve thousand supermarkets around America are using them now.

CBS put the cards to a test to see if they save the buyer money.

We are always looking for your great ideas. Send Al a few sentences and hot links.

Editor's Note: Al's Morning Meeting is a compendium of ideas, story excerpts, and other materials from a variety of websites, as well as original concepts and analysis. When the information comes directly from another source, it will be attributed, and a link will be provided, whenever possible.
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    Al Tompkins

    Al Tompkins is The Poynter Institute’s senior faculty for broadcasting and online. He has taught thousands of journalists, journalism students and educators in newsrooms around the world.


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