Newspaper Web Sites Bring Tragedy Home

By: Wayne Robins

Talk about multimedia: At 9:05 a.m. on Sept. 11, I was on an express bus from Queens to E&P‘s downtown Manhattan headquarters. I watched thick black smoke streaming from the World Trade Center, a ghastly contrast to the breathtakingly clear cerulean sky. Audible throughout the bus, a radio dispatcher was barking desperate orders to drivers: Turn around and go home.

For the next hours, I watched the tragedy unfold on TV. Newspapers proved their indispensability in the days and weeks to come with detail, analysis, and photography by journalists roused to pride and moved to tears.

It also became evident that the events on and after Sept. 11 proved the validity of a concept that has been infrequently mentioned since the economy tanked: convergence. The ability of newspaper Web sites to archive text, sounds, and a host of graphic formats helped some to tell compelling multimedia stories that became must-see A/V. The Web offers clarity that no paper stock can touch, as well as sounds that place you closer to hell than you’d ever want to be. Here are some examples that caught my eyes and ears.

The strength of the Los Angeles Times‘ coverage on its site (http://www.latimes.com) has been its photo gallery, archiving visuals from the attacks on the World Trade Center to the U.S. counterattacks.

“At first I thought photo galleries on the Web might be superfluous, given the wall-to-wall television,” said Joe Russin, assistant managing editor of latimes.com. “But millions of page views can’t be wrong. It appears people really wanted to look at these images in their own time, contemplating and absorbing the tragedy in ways that the rush of television could not accommodate.”

The site also features a black-and-white timeline in PDF, displaying the internal structure of the Twin Towers and the engineering principles that illustrate how and why the colossal collapses happened.

The Washington Post, with its own video staff and its CameraWorks affiliate, has a visual flair few news sites match. Its site (http://www.washingtonpost.com) has a 14-photo sequence compressing two hours of terminal destruction into one minute of gripping, horrifying viewing.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (http://www.jsonline.com) and The Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk (http://www.pilotonline.com) highlight the bravura work of staff photographers during and after the Twin Tower terror attacks. MSNBC.com features links to both in its “The Week in Pictures” archive.

Rich Wood, whose camera has seen action in Iraq, Somalia, and North Korea, was in New York Sept. 11 on a more prosaic assignment for the Milwaukee paper: shooting fashion shows. He articulately describes the scenario of his own 16-picture sequence of death and courage in NYC.

Chris Tyree of The Virginian-Pilot watched the disaster on TV, but it wasn’t until he arrived in New York Sept. 12 that he realized that the tube provided only limited access to the insane reality. His photos show a city full of smoke, destruction, and hope. They capture the blend of horror and heroism that marked one of America’s darkest days. “The heart of the city sparked me,” he said in his voice-over on the site. It also may have sparked a new era — this time online — of photojournalism, the likes of which we haven’t seen since the triumph of TV.




WEB POSTINGS

Jupiter Changes Orbit

Jupiter Media Matrix, the Internet analysis and measurement company, is restructuring its business, reducing its staff, and rearranging its management team. Kurt Abrahamson, former group president, is now president of the Jupiter Research division, which includes Jupiter’s Events business. The Media Metrix, AdRelevance, and Site Measurement products have been consolidated as the Measurement group, with Will Hodgman, who ran AdRelevance, as its president. Jean Robinson remains chief financial officer. Robert Becker, a former Thomson Corp. executive who has been CEO since July, also announced that the company would cut its work force by 30%, meaning a loss of about 200 jobs.

At its peak, the company had 650 employees; the target is now 450, according to spokeswoman Susan Hickey. The goal: knock $40 million off operating expenses.

Online Awards On Tap

The Web sites of The Washington Post, The New York Times, USA Today, and The Wall Street Journal are among the finalists in multiple categories for the Online Journalism Awards, announced last week by the Online News Association and the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. The online editions of The Herald, Everett, Wash., and The Herald-Sun, Durham, N.C., are among the smaller dailies to make the cut. Winners will be named Oct. 26.

On the run…

What’s the temperature in Kabul? Like Weather Underground Inc., AccuWeather Inc. is offering newspapers free weather maps for Afghanistan and its region via its Web site (http://www.accuweather.com/weather). …

The New York Times is featuring a free daily e-mail report by Andrew Ross Sorkin, the paper’s mergers-and-acquisitions whiz. It’s advertiser-supported, and space is sold through next year. …

The debut of the Times‘s new digital edition, produced in conjunction with NewsStand Inc. is said to be “imminent,” although there seems to be more uncertainty between the partners on how “imminent” imminent is.

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