THE fact that CompuServe is more commercially orientated than the Internet means, of course, that it will always have to be aware of what sells and what does not. Certain kinds of news will sell well, particularly if it has to do with the downfall of a famous person - usually an actor or actress or a sporting personality or, if you are really lucky, both. The other thing that really sells, apart from sex, naturally, is tragedy. So it comes as little surprise that the two biggest news subjects on CompuServe are the Oklahoma City bombing and the O. J. Simpson trial. There is, it is true, a certain voyeurism involved in both of these subjects. To many of us outside the United States, it may seem a little odd - after all, the British, for example, have been bombed and certainly have seen the fall from grace of the highest in the land. This is always something of a shock but it is never the end of the world. That is not, however, the way the news agencies in the US seem to be treating these events. There is a special forum on CompuServe now (GO OKCITY) that has been set up to deal with questions concerning the bombing in Oklahoma City. You can get access to things such as photographs and news stories, which are updated on the hour; you can follow the FBI as it tracks the criminals; you can even get video clips from Cable News Network. You can also take part in talks about the bombing. The hype is almost embarrassing. There are hours of television coverage in the US about both the bombing and 'the trial'. Now, it would seem, there will be megabytes and megabytes of the same thing for those who prefer to get there vicarious thrills on-line. It is, of course, easy to condemn all this as exploitation, and, indeed, there is certainly a lot of that going on. At the same time, however, there are a few things that CompuServe and the on-line community can do to help in such situations. CompuServe has sections that deal with telephone numbers for those who need to find out about relatives and friends. There are also numbers for those who wish to volunteer their services or want to donate money. It may not particularly be the fault of the net-providers that their services are being used in this way; after all, they are exactly what they are called; 'providers' - they do not necessarily determine the content, although this is not an easy subject. If I were to provide a service that allowed others to put up messages for the on-line community to read, how responsible would I be for the actual content of those messages? What is true of news items is perhaps even more so of that old and somewhat tiresome subject: sex. The providers would like to provide without having to worry about what the content is. Some subscribers, however, want to be 'protected' from things they find offensive. CompuServe, the Internet, America Online, and all the other digital nets are supposed to make the world a smaller place, a more international place. The reality is that the societies that have the money create the interest and the interest they create is in themselves.