By: Karim Mostafa

Newspapers Not Taking Advantage Of Web Tools

Journalists are not taking full advantage of what the Internet has to
offer, primarily due to a lack of training, reports the 6th Annual
Middleberg/Ross Print Media In Cyberspace Study released today.

‘Journalists use the same Web sites the public does,’ says Don
Middleberg, the study’s co-author and chairman, CEO of Middleberg +
Associates in New York. The study got a 10% response rate from managing
and business editors at 1,509 daily newspapers and managing editors at
2,500 American magazines.

Article research displaced e-mail last year as journalists’ primary
purpose for logging on, but the study reveals journalists are not using
specialized single-topic Web sites to full advantage, says Steve Ross,
co-author and associate professor at Columbia University’s journalism

The all-purpose Yahoo! was cited by 52% of the study’s newspaper
participants as their favorite general search engine, although the
links directory, not the search feature, is the main reason why.
‘Journalists are showing a significant lack of training,’ Ross says.
‘Specialized Web sites that can’t be searched through portals are not
being used at all.’

The study finds that only a quarter of journalists use meta-search
engines such as Dogpile, Google, and Ask Jeeves. And for topic-specific
search engines, the EDGAR database ranked first. Eleven percent of
newspaper journalists do not use a topic-specific search engine at all.
‘Reporters are not well-trained at looking for specialty sources,’ Ross
adds. And the search for sources is one of the big reasons journalists
go online (57% of newspaper respondents say they used the Internet to
seek new sources and experts).

When working with new or unknown sources, newspaper folk are far more
suspicious of e-mail. The study finds that 45% of newspaper journalists
want to deal with new sources in the flesh; only 16% of magazine
journalists preferred in-person meetings. Apparently more tech-savvy,
37% of magazine scribes prefer e-mail communication with new sources.
Only 14% of newspaper editors wanted to communicate this way.

‘Technology is outpacing news organizations and the training they can
offer,’ Ross says. As a result, newspaper journalists are not taking
complete advantage of storytelling tools the Internet makes possible –
video, audio, and interactive graphics.

Other key findings:

? Two-thirds of newspapers use a common newsroom for Web and print
operations, a growing trend particularly among regional and local
newspapers. National newspaper sites have opted for separating online
newsrooms, most in pursuit of Wall Street’s dot-com mania.
? Print publications that have some type of online presence jumped to
83% in 1999 from 59% the previous year.

? Forty percent of the respondents say their publications will allow
the Web site to scoop the print edition in certain circumstances.

? Three out of four journalists log on once a day, up from 48% the year

? Two-thirds of journalists read publications online, passing the 50%
mark for the first time.
? More newspaper journalists want to deal with new sources in person,
up to 45% from last year’s 31%. Even for known sources, only 20% of the
newspaper crowd likes to communicate by e-mail.

? Finding images online doubled this year among journalists. Also,
preferences for digital images, particularly among newspapers,
increased significantly.

? Journalists are using e-mail more for interacting with readers and
less as a source for story ideas. ‘Journalists will have discussions
online with their readers,’ Middleberg says. ‘I would encourage the
hell out of that.’
? As for Web sites’ credibility among journalists, trade association
sites were the only ones to get a good rating. Nonprofit and public
interest sites were in general deemed not credible by journalists. The
least credible were message boards and chat groups. Yet, 68% of
newspaper respondents said they would report an Internet rumor if
confirmed by an independent source.

? Web forums and Usenet newsgroup postings are considered as possible
sources by only 17% of respondents.

For more information, visit


Karim Mostafa ( is
assistant editor for Editor & Publisher Online.

(c) Copyright 2000, Editor & Publisher

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