Top Online Journalism Stories of 2001

What were the biggest events in the online news world last
year? Here are the Top 10 CyberJournalist
Stories of the Year
. Plus check out some of
the best year-end packages online
. Worth a laugh:

BBC’s look at The Silly Stories of 2001
, which covers
everything from flying pigs to "cheeky forgery."

and Dot.reactionaries

Salon has withered, but many smaller
sites are still offering political
commentary and political musings. Here’s a suggested reading
list from the

Chicago Tribune

of some you may not know about or bothered to read:

Andrew Sullivan,
Arianna Huffington,,
FrontPage Magazine (which
claims its traffic grew 75 percent in 2001!),
3 a.m.
Identity Theory,
Arts and
Letters Daily

Online Thinking

At a recent Writing News Online seminar at the Poynter
Institute, participants and faculty members stretched their
online thinking muscles.
about the exercise, try it yourself and get some online thinking


Steve Yelvington counted the number of links
on the home pages of major news sites and found 100 to 200
standard. "A
funny thing happened on the way to the Internet," he says. "The
editors got lost. At least it seems that way." This and more in
the first edition of

, a new newsletter on digital news from The Media
Center at the American Press Institute.

Terror Attack
Traffic Gains

Online news site traffic
numbers have leveled off since the huge increase after the Sept.
11 attacks, but usage still remains much higher than before the
attacks. Are these gains permanent? There’s a good chance of it,

the Chicago Tribune
: "News stories with long cycles, such as
the terrorism coverage or Florida vote recount, create fresh use
patterns in new audiences, creating a ‘step ladder effect’ in
Internet ratings. ‘Rather than drop off at pre-event days . . .
you train people to visit a broadcast channel, cable or Web
channel over the course of a week. The audience is effectively
trained to go back,’ said Mark Mooradian, vice president and
senior analyst at Jupiter Media Metrix."

Down to the Wires

Amy Langfield
studied the the 15 most-trafficked news Web sites for three
weeks for
Online Journalism Review
and concluded that they’re
lethargic and too dependent on wire stories. "Many of the top
sites are not even attempting to cover breaking news," she
writes. "With few exceptions, the race among the most-read
online news sites has turned into a competition to see which
site can post wire copy the fastest.

Holidays from
And best of luck for
the new year. And here’s a fun and

way to look back at 2001: The top search engines have pulled
together the most popular search terms of the year, broken down by
categories. Who are the winners? Consensus says the woman of
the year is Britney Spears, and Nostradamus and Osama bin
Laden tie for man of the year. Check out the Year-End
Google Zeitgeist
, the Ask
Jeeves top questions of the year
, and especially the Lycos
Top 50 of the year
. These lists are a great way to keep on
top of what readers are interested in.

Size Doesn’t Matter
and Kuro5hin
are four small sites doing good journalism on tiny budgets
with tiny staffs. Some good lessons can be learned from them,
as J.D.
Lasica points out in the Online Journalism Review
. Note,
in particular, the discussion of Metafilter, a communal blog
where anyone can post anything. "People like playing
reporters," creator Matt Haughey says. "Editors and
reporters are always going to remain important. But this is an
important supplement."

A New Way to Read Online
Slate has launched a
new feature called "On
Other Web Sites
" to make it easy to jump around from
all of their recommended Web links, from The Washington Post
to The New Republic. The best part is the Today’s Picks tab,
where they list "a handful of the day’s most provocative
articles (not counting Slate’s, of course), from op-ed screeds
to architecture write-ups and CD reviews."

Online Journalism

Some of the best online journalism is being
produced by students — a good sign that despite our
industry’s struggles, the future remains bright. Each spring
the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism
publishes a weekly online magazine about life in New York
City, called NYC24 — you
can check out the past two years’ editions and the compelling
storytelling makes it well worth
it. New York University students, meanwhile, have just
published ReadMe,
a collection of articles about online journalism, including
interviews with some practitioners. Here you can read about
everything from to Christina
Valhouli’s infamous Salon bikini wax article
, best known
for the lead, "I am lying flat on my back naked, holding
my butt and legs in the air while a middle-aged Brazilian
woman peers at my crotch."

Standard Returns — Kinda

The Web site of the now-defunct Industry
has been revived as an archive of articles from
the Internet economy magazine. Strangely enough, though, the
archive is not indexed by date and has no search function. Tip:
You can search the site using Google
by entering your search term followed by

Court Says Online
Writers Protected

In a victory for freedom of speech online, the
New York State Supreme Court has ruled that online journalists
have the same protections against charges of libel as
traditional news outlets.
The court dismissed a case
seeking to hold,
a site that reports on the war on drugs, liable for defamation
for reporting claims that the Bank of Mexico president was
involved in drug trafficking. "This court finds that
Narco News is a media defendant and is entitled to heightened
protection under the First Amendment," the decision
states (read
the decision

New Net Reporting Guide
The Associated Press will be publishing a guide to research,
writing style and reporting using the Internet on Jan. 15.
Edited by Norm Goldstein, the man behind the Associated
Press Stylebook,
this should be a great resource for all
wired journalists.
is taking preorders now
.  (Ironic aside: The book
description by Perseus Publishing proclaims it will be
"the on-line style guide of choice" — except that
AP style spells online as one word. Whoops.)

Accuracy and Fairness Tips
a world where speed rules, what do online reporting and
editing staffers need to do in order to insure accuracy and
fairness? Check out these ten tips from
Andrea Panciera
, editor of, the Web site of The
Providence Journal.

War and Olympics
Coverage E-mail Lists

The Poynter Institute has launched two
new e-mail lists
on hot topics, one to discuss war
coverage and another for discussion Olympics coverage. It’s
too early to tell how active or useful they will be, but
they’re probably worth checking out for anyone covering those
topics or simply interested in them. 

Paper-Thin Video Screens
Dutch researchers say they’ve
figured out a way to cram enough plastic transistors into a
flexible surface to produce video — which could help pave the
way for electronic paper. A number of other companies are
working on similar technology, but this is the first one to
discover a way to make the "e-ink" refresh fast
enough to create moving images. This could be the future of
"newspapers" — electronic editions on flexible
e-paper that automatically update themselves (with journalists
help of course!) as the news changes.

Freedom of Speech Online
A federal appeals court has upheld a lower-court decision that
prohibited Web sites from posting DVD-encryption programs or
even linking to Web sites that post such programs. A number of
news organizations — including the Online News Association,
the Newspaper Association of America, the Reporters Committee
for Freedom of the Press and Wired News — filed friend of the
court briefs in the case. The case could have a profound
impact on online journalism by restricting what original
source materials news sites can link to. Read
more about it on the ONA’s Web site

Online News Style

Several debates are
raging on various online journalism e-mail lists right now
about what style guidelines Internet news sites should use.
Some argue that the Associated Press
remains the standard, while others say it’s
outdated and should change terms like "Web site" to
"website" and "e-mail" to
"email." But the debates are largely missing the
point: The actual style you choose is less important than
consistency across your publication. Many sites, for example,
run both AP and Reuters stories without changing styles, which
not only looks unprofessional, but can be very confusing to
the reader. A good example is the different spellings of Arab
names littering sites’ news stories on the Afghanistan war
coverage. recommends starting with AP
style, creating your own amendments to it that suit your
site’s mission and audience — and remaining consistent. 

The Importance of E-mail

When belt-tightening comes, should e-mail newsletters be cut? E-Media Tidbits has
an interesting back-and-forth on the question between Steve
Outing and Vin Crosbie. Outing
criticizes Red Herring for dumping
its e-mail newsletters
to save money, arguing that they
are "great at driving traffic to Web sites and "are
most important to future Internet success when the economy
rebounds." Crosbie,
who runs an e-mail publishing company, makes a good point
that Web sites are foolish to just send out e-mails with links
to stories on their sites, and should instead send out
complete HTML pages. Doing so, he argues, would take less work
and offer more to the reader. "Imagine if a newspaper
company daily delivered to your home not a newsprint edition,
but a sheet of paper, a ‘newsletter’ that listed just the
day’s headlines and invited you to retrieve a newsprint
edition from a newsstand or vending machine. Ridiculous? Yes,
but that’s exactly what many newspaper Web sites are doing
when they deliver e-mail ‘newsletters.’" Well said.

Photographer’s Journal

The New York Times has produced another powerful narrated
journal from Afghanistan
, this time from staff
photographer James Hill. It’s good to see Times sticking with
this format after the first one, featuring
Laforet’s words and images
, proved so effective. The Times
has found a great formula for adding context and emotion to
its photographers’ already-compelling images. It’s a model
other news organizations should emulate.

Bye Bye Yogi
The Wall Street Journal Online is killing the WSJ
as of Dec. 1. The Yogi, powered by Stratify, is a
free software application that acts as a personal assistant,
suggesting supposedly relevant content to you as you browse
the Web. Theoretically, it learns what you like from the
articles you read and suggest others of interest to you. But
mostly what it does is take up a quarter of your screen with
mostly useless links to press releases and stories you could
easily find on your own, have already read or have no interest
in reading. It was a valient attempt at creating an
intelligent news agent, though it remains to be seen whether
people really want one, even one that works well.

Telling Stories Online

popular list of online storytelling forms and examples
been updated — and now includes games, Web logs, wordless
stories and more. Check it out and send
in your suggestions
of other forms and examples worth

Online News Summary Tool

Columbia University’s Computer
Science Department has developed an experimental tool called
the Columbia
that automatically tracks news events. Using
"natural-language processing" technology, it
summarizes reports from twelve news sources daily, including
Reuters,,,,, and — and conveniently offers
links to each site’s stories. Yahoo’s
Full Coverage
still seems more useful, but it’s an
intriguing concept and it will be interesting to see how the
project develops. Check it out. Is
this the future of online news

Internet Language

Steve Outing points out
that the widespread use of 9/11/01
to refer to the attacks on the World Trade Center can be
confusing to some people outside of American, because in other
parts of the world dates are written 11/9/01 or 01/9/11. He
says Web sites should only use 9/11, 9/11/01, and 911 in
stories if they know that your audience is exclusively
American. But the point, though, doesn’t just apply to 9/11.
No matter what the date being referred to, it’s best to write
them out: Sept. 11. Online editors should always keep in mind
the global nature of the Web audience in using any terms.

Pay for

News sites considering charging for content
should pay heed: a
new study from the Pew Internet & American Life Project

reinforces beliefs that few people are willing to pay for access to Web
sites. About 17 percent of Internet users surveyed have been
asked to pay to access Web sites they used to see for free,
but of those, only 12 percent agreed to pay for access. 
Salon hasn’t done even that well. Norbert Specker reports in E-Media
that Salon has convinced only 23,000 of his 4.5
million monthly users to open their wallets — less than one
percent. However, those 23,000 will be responsible for 35
percent of Salon’s budget this year — not bad really.

E-mail News Alerts
Jesdanun of the Associated Press reviewed the breaking news
e-mail alerts from Yahoo!, CNN, MSNBC, ABC, The Washington
Post and The New York Times
and found, "The services
vary in reliability and usefulness, and have their share of
annoyances. But overall, they’re a good way to follow big news
as it occurs without traditional broadcast media." His
advice? Use Yahoo! If you want lots of alerts, or any of the
others if you want just a few; and subscribe to several, since
each site has different news judgment.

Airlines-Sponsored Crash Coverage?

Shortly after the American Airlines Flight Some readers may
have noticed that ran an
ad on its cover for the airline — right next to the crash
. This embarrassing faux pas ought to serve as a
good reminder that random ad generation has its flaws, and
sites need systems in place to prevent things like this from

Air Crash Tests News

A slew of publications weighed in on the burst of traffic on
Nov. 12 after the plane crash in New York: AP,
and Internet
. Most said the same thing: That sites have learned
their lessons after being caught off guard on Sept. 11 by the
unexpected traffic, rending many of the sites inaccessible.
This time they were better prepared. Some sites stripped
advertising and graphics. Others moved high-trafficked stories
to special servers. Accessibility was much better than Sept.
11, but it still performance to most sites slowed in the
morning. This is a problem that won’t go away — indeed, will
get worse as more people come online — and that news sites
must address to be successful.

Quote of the

Rich Jaroslovsky, Wall Street Journal senior editor, on online
coverage of the Sept. 11 attacks: "The event showed how
the Net fits people’s information needs: more timely than
newspaper, more in-depth than broadcast, more context than any
other medium. The Net should not try to be TV or print, but
fill the large space between the two." He made the
comments at the Interactive Publishing Content Summit in
Zurich — you’ll find summaries
of other speakers here

Ad-Funded Online News?

BBC is planning a new international online news service

that it hopes one day will be funded entirely by advertising.
The site, to be run by a new new global news division that
includes the commercial news channel BBC World and the
government-funded World Service, hopes to turn to the
ad-driven model once it can develop technology to target
advertisements only at overseas viewers. The new site is
expected to be announced in the next few weeks to take
advantage of the increased demand for international news in
the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Instant History

Thanks to the Internet, the first book has
been published about the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, called
"09/11 8:48 a.m.: Documenting America’s Greatest Tragedy."
Outing writes on
that the book represents a new
form of journalism "made possible by the speed and ease
with which the Internet allows communication and collaboration
between editor and writers, and on-demand digital book
publishing." He interviews the editors of the book, Ethan
Casey and Jay Rosen. "There’s plenty of journalism on the
Internet," Rosen says. "Very little of it is of the
Internet. We don’t know yet what the Net makes possible
because we’re still asking how the journalism we’ve known and
loved translates to the new medium — or doesn’t. This is a
book, recognizable as a book, that couldn’t have happened
without a series of prior interactions born on the Internet." 

Journalism Credibility

The Online News Association have
revealed preliminary findings from its Digital Journalism
Credibility Project, based on nationwide surveys of the public
and the media. The authors say the report’s key finding is
that online readers have yet to make up their minds about the
credibility of online news. But J.D.
Lasica writes in the Online Journalism Review
about what
he thinks is the most interesting finding: "The public
has a higher opinion of online news sites’ credibility than
our Old Media colleagues do." Says ONA
President Rich Jaroslovsky, "It’s confirmation of what
I’ve observed ? the group of people who aren’t as fully
convinced of the bona fides of online journalists are other
journalists. Print and broadcast news organizations see us and
maybe feel a bit threatened or unsure of where we fit in. The
public is more sure about the chops of online news than our
colleagues are."

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