Last week I was in New York and witnessed the aftermath of the attack on the World Trade Center. Phone lines were down and mobiles were temporarily useless, so it was a relief to find the easyEverything internet cafe in Times Square functioning perfectly. It became my work space, somewhere I could go to log on and find out what was happening in the world and how the event was being reported in the UK.
For a little under £4, I bought a 24-hour pass and used its internet computers to find out what was happening back in the UK. Through the web I was able to supplement what information I had picked up from the US media.
Although the traditional media did its best to offer updates on what had happened, it did not given any focus to the many thousands of people who were in New York on holiday or on business. It failed to provide any real information on what they needed to do or should have been doing.
US television channels gave wall-to-wall coverage on the crisis and sometimes ran stories without checking facts. One of the networks ran a story about a "firefighter" who claimed he had just rescued 10 people. Later in the day, it apologised for running the story, having been told by the fire department that it was not true.
However, UK news websites have provided a constant stream of useful information, from The Times website through to BBC News Online. The importance of these sites cannot be underestimated – a stream of British travellers stranded in New York were logging on trying to find out what was happening back home.
I had an opportunity, the day after the attacks, to visit Ground Zero and see for myself what was left of the World Trade Center.
I spoke to a journalist from The Observer who, like myself, was in New York on holiday.
He too had discovered easyEverything and, no doubt, afterwards he went there and used the place as his base to file stories. I now wonder how many would have been able to cope with covering the story without the web.
Within minutes of the event happening, it was possible to go into an internet cafe, log on and file copy by e-mail. Every journalist going out on an assignment should really try to locate their nearest internet cafe before they set off.
You never know when it will become your temporary workspace.