Tracking the never-ending story

By: Carl Sullivan

New York Times creates ‘Continuous News Desk’ To Update Web Stories throughout the day

Visit a dozen newspaper Web sites at midday, and you’ll likely see very similar versions of the same story. After transferring each morning’s newspaper from print to the Web, most publications rely on The Associated Press or other wire services to update the news throughout the day.
Now The New York Times is aiming to put its stamp on daily Web stories with the creation of a Continuous News Desk. Jerry Gray, a Times employee for about nine years and most recently the “Metro” political editor, will run the new desk, which will be housed within the print newspaper’s newsroom. Gray is an employee of the newspaper, not its Internet division, Times Co. Digital.
Initially, the staff will consist of Gray, a deputy editor, and four rewrite reporters, three in New York and one in Washington. Gray expects to file 10 to 20 stories a day for The New York Times on the Web at http:// www.nytimes.com.
“By midmorning, the newspaper starts to become static on the Web site,” explained Gray, who reports to Times Managing Editor Bill Keller. He said his job will be to update some stories from each morning’s paper with explanatory journalism and analytical takes on events.
“We’re not trying to be a wire service,” Gray said. “We will weigh in on those kinds of stories where The New York Times can bring something special and extra to the topic.” Gray envisions a continuum of news from the Times that begins with the morning newspaper, continues on the Web site through the day, and starts again with the next morning’s print edition.
Gray said his job isn’t to replace the newspaper: “We’re setting out to take The New York Times in print beyond its current boundaries.”
Scheduled to begin publishing in mid-December, the Continuous News Desk’s stories will be marked distinctively to identify them as Times stories original to the Web site.
Bringing that New York Times brand to online-only stories is part of an effort to differentiate the site from news sites that are running identical wire copy. The Washington Post is trying to do the same thing with its PM Extra, launched on washingtonpost.com in September.
“Everybody’s report after 11 o’clock in the morning has the same AP lead on it,” said Douglas Feaver, editor of washingtonpost.com. “People come to [our site] expecting to see Washington Post journalism, and we’re trying to find a way to deliver it.”
Unlike the Times, the Post didn’t hire rewrite people to update stories. Instead, existing Post print staffers are asked to contribute. Typically, four to 11 stories are published at 1 p.m.
Feaver said the set publication date doesn’t prevent the site from posting breaking news. To coordinate Post print staffers and contributions to the Web during the day, the newspaper named Tracy Grant, formerly a local business editor, managing editor for The Washington Post Online Edition. She’s still a print newspaper employee and sits in the paper’s newsroom, where she works closely with the print staff.
(Editor & Publisher WebSite:http:www.mediainfo.com) [Caption]
(copyright: Editor & Publisher November 27, 1999) [Caption]

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