Full October 2002 archive

Here is the full archive for for October 2002.

October 2002

Tip: The Smoking Gun on the

The Smoking Gun was the first news organization to get its
hands on an audio tape of sniper suspect John Allen Muhammad’s April 2001
appearance in Pierce County District Court to change his name from John
Allen Williams. After
the audio
was posted on the Web site
, CNN broadcast the clip, crediting The
Smoking Gun. For those continuing to cover the case, the Web site also has
one of the
most comprehensive collections online of documents related to the case


Behind the
Gotham Gazette

The Gotham Gazette, an independent Web news site
about New York City, recently won the Online News Association’s award for
Independent Service Journalism for an exhaustive package about Rebuilding
NYC in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, including an interactive game where
users could design their own vision of how to rebuild lower Manhattan.
In an essay for, Gotham
Gazette Editor Jonathan Mandell describes how the tiny staff of Gotham
Gazette put together this award-winning package
. [10/30]

Taking Google News for a Test Drive
Despite the rave reviews for Google News,

The Chicago Tribune’s Raoul V. Mowatt
points out that the much-heralded
technology slips at times. "Sometimes, in its frenzy to put words and
pictures together, Google pulls a headline from one news source and a photo
from another. A headline from the Independent about Tim Salmon lifting the
Angels in Game 2, for example, had a photo of a New Jersey columnist. And a
headline from the Washington Post about the prosecutor in the sniping case
entering the spotlight ran alongside a photo of sniper suspect John Lee
Malvo. Oops."’s Jonathan Dube,
who also weighed in on
Google News recently
, told Mowatt that until the site can filter out the
dozens of duplicate wires stories listed for each story, the site will be
little more than "a novelty." [10/30]

Ridiculous Deep-Linking Case
Here’s one of the most ridiculous deep-linking cases yet: Software vendor
Intentia filed a complaint in Sweden against Reuters, claiming a reporter
"broke into Intentia’s computer systems" to obtain Intentia’s third quarter
2002 financial results and publish them hours before they were announced,
Wired News
. The information, though, was posted on Intentia’s Web site,
just not linked to. "The reporter did not use software that would penetrate
or search Intentia’s private systems. The reporter did not enter a password
in order to obtain the data," Reuters spokeswoman Susan Allsopp said. "The
reporter simply went to the area of Intentia’s site where such information
is normally posted and found the report." Reuters did nothing wrong. And
companies — including media companies — need to stop pretending that pages
posted on their public Web servers are private unless their linked to.

Sniper Story Gives Web Traffic Boost
The Web continues to attract huge numbers of readers for breaking news
stories like the serial sniper saga., for example, saw its
audience balloon from the typical 4 million per day to roughly 8 to 8.5
million last Thursday, when the two suspects were captured, and
showed a 7 percent increase in its traffic,

Media Life Magazine reports
. The article says that cable networks saw
"similar" gains percentage-wise and smaller increases in total visitors,
which, while likely, isn’t accurate based on the statistics available, since
the cable numbers track  average viewers while the Net numbers count
total users — it’s like comparing apples and oranges. Still, the cable
networks also saw significant increases:   MSNBC averaged 109,000 viewers
for the week, a 104 percent increase. CNN averaged 427,000 viewers, a 190
percent increase, while Fox News was up 121 percent with 409,000 average
viewers. [10/30]

APMEOnline Convergence Awards
The winners of the first Associated Press Managing Editors
APMEOnline Convergence Awards are in the 50,000+ circulation
category, for "Clear
The Skies
," a package of stories, multimedia and an "interactive
documentary" about U.S. aviation on the day of the terrorists attacks. In
the under-50,000 circulation category, won for its report
Idaho: Challenged to Change
," a package of stories, photographs and
audio files reporting the many difficulties confronting residents of the
state’s wide open territories. Honorable mentions were given to The Forum,
Fargo, N.D., and the Reno (Nev.) Gazette Journal in the small newspaper
category, and Newsday of Melville, N.Y., the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, and
The Spokesman-Review, Spokane, Wash., in the large newspaper category. In
addition, APME has named The Spokesman-Review’s interactive editor, Ken
Sands, to its board to represent online news operations. [10/29]

Charging to Chat
Here’s a clever new subscription service: Charge people to chat with special
guests. That also has the side-benefit of limiting chat audiences to a
devoted group more likely to keep the chat interesting.
launched a new Chat Series this week doing just that; the first one, with founder Jim Cramer, cost $35. " Chat Series
Featuring Jim Cramer is a unique 1-hour LIVE online event where Jim will
show you the sectors he feels are going to be hot and which ones to avoid as
the year comes to a close," the promo read. "Jim will reveal the top 10
trades that he will be making in the months ahead. This one piece of
information alone is worth well more than the price of admission!"

Pitfalls of Technology
When posted a letter from the serial sniper last week in
PDF form, it blocked out certain details, like the owner of a stolen credit
card. But because it used Adobe Acrobat software to block it out, people
with the software could remove the black marks and read even those details,
according to Kurt Foss, editor of
Planet PDF,
as reported on
E-media Tidbits.

‘Two Cents’ Worth a Lot

The San Francisco Chronicle has discovered a great way to
use technology to improve reporting. The newspaper has a built a database,
called Two Cents, that lists more than 1,600 residents of the nine Bay Area
counties served by the Chronicle, including each person’s address, telephone
number, photo, e-mail address, birthday, occupation, interests, hobbies and
other facts. Chronicle reporters and editors used Two Cents to find sources
for stories, reader reaction to news events and "man-on-the-street" opinions
on everything from organ transplants to the Pledge of Allegiance. "You can
search by anything,"

said Heidi Swillinger
, who created the database, "[whether] you want to
talk to 20-year-olds, people who live in a certain town, or people named
John." How did the newspaper build this invaluable database? The newspaper
recruits Two Cents sources using its Web site,
. [10/28]

Late to the Game
Of the 1,400 U.S. dailies and several hundred community weeklies, fewer than
100 don’t have news sites on the Internet,

The Baltimore Sun reports
. The Hudson Register-Star and the Catskill
Daily Mail are among those late to the game, but now diving in. "If you’re a
small outfit like we are and stay close to your cash box, you can’t do it
and lose money," said publisher Jules Molenda. "But several times a week
somebody would call here and ask for our Web site." Management eventually
decided to post a "modest version" that will include a sampling of top
stories and obituaries. By charging an extra $1 per classified advertisement
for the increased exposure online, Molenda estimates the Web site will
generate less than 1 percent of his total revenue. But more importantly, he
says, it won’t drain the company until the day someone figures out a more
profitable model on the Web. [10/26]

Professor Receives SPJ Teaching Award

Marcel Dufresne of the University of Connecticut, who’s been
teaching computer-assisted reporting for years, has received the
Society of
Professional Journalists? Distinguished Teaching in Journalism
. This past year, Dufresne’s students used
computer-assisted reporting and old-fashioned footwork to
produce a four-part, 11-story series about crime on the
university?s campus. Dufresne guided students through database
analysis of crime reports, spreadsheet analysis of police
budgets, construction and administration of a statistically
valid opinion poll, and a security audit of dormitories. [10/25]

Arts & Letters Daily Returns

The popular Weblog news site
Arts & Letters Daily
returns today, having been bought by The Chronicle
of Higher Education,
Jim Romenesko’s MediaNews reports
. The site, which suspended publication
after the bankruptcy of its parent company, gained an international
following for its pithy summaries of, and links to, much of the Web’s best
writing on ideas, the arts, criticism, and a wide variety of other topics.
The site will continue to be run by its founder, founder, Denis Dutton, a
professor of philosophy at the University of Canterbury, in Christchurch,
New Zealand. [10/25]

Future of in Question?

The sale of The Washington Post’s share of the
International Herald Tribune to The New York Times raises the question of
the future of the Tribune and its Web site,, which has one of the
most innovative designs of any news site on the Web. A source tells
The New York Observer
that "eventually the Web site will take over the role of the IHT."
Eventually, the paper reported, The Times might scrap the international
edition and begin charging international visitors to the Times Web site.

Passion poison
Salon is turning its popular sex column, "Since You Asked,"
into a feature for only premium subscribers — two days a week. Three days a
week it will remain free. This is an interesting approach — give people a
taste, but make lovers pay for more. "I love doing the column, and I love
hearing about you and your lives,"

columnist Cary Tennis writes
. "The only way this can go on is if Salon
does well as a business. Ergo, whatever it takes. I hope you can support
that." [10/23]

Breaking Stories Online
Breaking exclusives online has almost become so routine that we fail to
notice — almost. Kudos to The Wall Street Journal, which broke the news
Monday night on its Web site that "The Securities and Exchange Commission’s
enforcement staff has informed Martha Stewart that it intends to recommend
filing civil securities fraud charges against her in connection with her
controversial sale of ImClone Systems. . ." [10/22]

Is the End of Free News on the Web Nearing?
Not so fast. Things are starting to get pricey in
Europe, but is expected to break even by the end of the year, New
York Times Digital has achieved an operating profit for the
fifth-consecutive quarter, and now has more than 1
million paying customers. These headlines and more in’s latest business headlines roundup.

Online Journalism Award Winners Announced

CNET and won multiple honors at the third annual
Online Journalism Awards. You can see the complete list of winners and their
work here.
If you missed the conference, you can read and view video clips from the
. Among the things you can learn about are how to innovate on the
fly, what makes convergence work and how to draw users into stories through
multimedia. [10/21]

Labeling Ads Online

Sometimes there’s a fine line between how editorial and
advertising content appear online, so clearly marking ads as advertising is
important for any new organization wanted to maintain readers’ trust. slipped last week when it ran stripped-down ads that looked like
editorial links, CNet
. But since then, has added the label "advertisement."

Behind the Scenes: ‘Amtrak: All Aboard?’

Christian Science Monitor’s ‘Amtrak: All Aboard?’ is a wonderful multimedia
look at Amtrak’s troubles, incorporating audio, Weblogs and interactive
In an essay for,
News Producer Ben Arnoldy
explains how produced the package, which is a finalist for the
Online Journalism Awards that will be announced this weekend. [10/17]

September Net Traffic Numbers

Nielsen//NetRatings top Current Events & Global News Sites numbers
are out for September
. The Associated Press, Belo and the Drudge Report
dropped off the Top 20, while the Boston Globe, McClatchy Newspapers and the WorldNow network of local television sites joined the list. If you’re not
familiar with WorldNow check it out
— the company now has partnerships with 143 local television stations. 

Bilingual Coverage Online

When The (Wilmington, Del.) News Journal published a
front-page story on an apartment complex condemned because of

toxic mold
this week, its Web site,, also published a

in Spanish.
Publishing versions in multiple languages online is a great
idea for newspapers that have serve large multilingual populations  —
and particularly in this case, since the apartment complex residents are
mostly Hispanic and many don’t speak English. (Thanks to Al Tompkins for
the link
). [10/16]

Online News Conference

There’s still time to register for the Online News
Association conference this weekend — here’s
the conference
schedule and reservation form
.  If you can’t make it, students from an online news class at American
University in Washington will post regular updates to ONA’s Web site,, Friday
and Saturday. [10/15]

Embedded Video has developed
technology called ESPNMotion
that enables it to embed video in
Web pages, so that users can watch the video without having to open a new
window. Users will have to download a small software program, which will
download video clips when the computer is not being used, so that the clips
can be higher quality than streaming video. Then, the next time a user logs
in to, a highlights video will be on the home page and immediately
start playing. This new technology a big deal because it’s a strong step
toward truly integrating video into the online news experience, rather than
simply using it as an appendage. [10/15] 

Behind the Scenes:
The Sonic Memorial Project is a

searchable audio archive of
immediate, first-person accounts chronicling  Sept. 11 from almost every vantage
point, collected by
NPR’s Lost and Found Sound and the public broadcasting
community. The project’s impressive site,,
was built by Picture Projects, an award-winning interactive
documentary company. T
he site’s unique
Sonic Browser interface
enables users to zoom in and out on specific sounds while ambient
audio plays in the background.’s Jonathan Dube
asked Picture Projects cofounders Alison Cornyn and Sue Johnson about the making

Wired for All has unveiled a new site design that’s more
notable for what you can’t see — the backbone — than what you can. "By
converting to the hybrid markup language
(extensible hypertext markup language) and adopting

cascading stylesheets
(CSS), Wired News is now faster to load and can be
read by practically every version of every Web browser,"
the site
. "It can be displayed on a wider range of browser platforms,
including mobile phones, PDAs and televisions. It’s more accessible to the
visually impaired, and may be updated on any or all of its thousands of
pages quickly, with a simple list of commands." Whether or not you like the
new design, whose colors will be changing daily (!), you have to give Wired
credit for adopting these standards, ones that all Web sites should follow.

Hauling in Story Ideas

TheBackHaul’s daily
e-mail newsletter
is a great way to keep an eye on some of the most
interesting stories being done by local TV stations around the country.
After ceasing publication in May, the newsletter is back.  [10/11]

The Post Does Unnarrated Web Videos Right
With time so precious on air, TV stations rarely run unnarrated video, but
the Web makes that a more viable option. Simply throwing up unedited video,
though, rarely produces compelling viewing. The National Journal’s William
Power’s says the carefully edited unnarrated video stories on are "downright artful." The site has been doing these
unnarrated videos since the 2000 presidential race. "At first we were mostly
doing talking-heads stand-ups,"
said Mark Stencel, vice
president for multimedia
. "It very quickly evolved to this form of
self-narrated video storytelling…. There were parts of the conventions
where it was more interesting to have the delegates tell what was going on
there than for us to tell you what the delegates were doing." [10/11]

Consumers Like
E-mail Newsletters

E-mail newsletters are a powerful tool to push content to
readers who might not visit a site regularly, and now there’s a new study
backing that up. People connect more to content sources through e-mail
newsletters than through Web sites, according to a new study. "Newsletters
feel personal because they arrive in your e-mail inbox, and you have an
ongoing relationship with them. In contrast, Web sites are things you glance
at when you need to find an answer to a specific question,"

said Jakob Nielsen
, principal of Nielsen Norman Group, a Freemont,
Calif., research group that conducted the study. The study also found that
23% of the newsletters were read thoroughly, 50% were skimmed or partly
read, and the remaining 27% were never opened.  [10/10]

How Much Would You Pay for Your Onion?
The infamous and hilarious humor site The Onion is
considering adding premium content that it would charge users to read. No
joke. But the site says it would still give readers the content they read
now for free. The Onion has a loyal readership that might be willing to pay,
though online content is always a difficult sell. "The majority of internet
users still don’t want to pay for content,"

says David Strassel
, managing editor of the Intermarket Group.  "For
just about any type of content there are multiple alternatives." [10/10]

Medill’s New Multimedia Digs
Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism ‘s new $17.5 million
building, the McCormick Tribune Center, will house Medill’s broadcast, new
media and regular journalism classes and be able to broadcast programming
across campus or around the world. "We wanted to enable Medill to really
take the lead in producing students who understand and are comfortable
operating in a rich multimedia, digital atmosphere. That is the future,"
said Richard A. Behrenhausen, president of the McCormick Tribune Foundation. 

Net Error
Student journalists at Washington State
University’s student newspaper, The Daily Evergreen, made a foolish error
when they reprinted information they found on a Web site without
double-checking it. "The first Filipinos landed on the shores of Morro Bay,
California, on a Spanish galleon called the Nuestra Se?ora de Buena
Esperanza, which translates to ‘The Big Ass Spanish Boat,’" the paper wrote.
The correct translation is "Our Lady of Good Hope.", the Web site the
material was pilfered from, posted a note this week saying the passage was a
joke. "You know, some people really need to learn that just because
something is on the Internet doesn’t mean that it is true," the site states.
"And this harsh lesson is what The Daily Evergreen newspaper learned." Here
are some tips for
assessing the quality of Internet information
.  [10/9]

Multiple Media
More evidence that people are increasingly surfing
the Net and watching TV at the same time:
a new study by two
Midwestern university professors found that 59% of males and 67% of females
watching TV regularly or occasionally go online at the same time. Of those
on the Internet, 69% of males and 76% of females regularly or occasionally
also watch TV. [10/9]

More Tech Magazines Fold
Forbes ASAP was one of the first print magazines to
exclusively cover the Internet and its rapid growth, but after 10 years,
it’s folding. "There is no market for a dedicated new-economy publication,"
Monie Begley, spokeswoman for Forbes,
The New York Times
. Meanwhile, Upside magazine announced it is also
shutting down, and Red Herring said it is selling itself to a majority
investor in an effort to restructure financially. [10/9]

Tip: Keeping Tabs on TV
a great site
that makes it easy to keep tabs on what’s said on
television. Enter a keyword and the service will instantly e-mail you a
transcript as soon as it is spoken on a station it tracks. [10/8]

News Reader Software
The San Jose Mercury News’ Michael Bazeley was frustrated surfing 30+ sites
a day until he discovered News Readers.  "By fetching headlines and
other content from the Web and dumping it onto a user’s desktop, news
readers can dramatically limit needless Web surfing," he says, in
that also lists descriptions of nine popular programs. "From my
desktop now, I can scan headlines and news summaries of dozens of sites
simultaneously and then decide if I want to go to the site for more
information." [10/8]

Losing Out

There are only a handful of cities–including Madison,
Wisconsin, and Raleigh, North Carolina–in which local TV sites meet or beat
newspaper sites. AJR’s Barb
looks at how this imbalance evolved and why it continues. And she
says local TV management needs to get get serious about the Web. "If
broadcast managers don’t relate to their online efforts as key components of
their news, promotion and profit strategies, they’ll continue to lag in
local markets." [10/7]

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