Sex Scandal, Olympics Altering News Rules p. 12

By: David Noack Print newsrooms change to accommodate growing demand for Web news

The Monica Lewinsky story and the 1998 Winter Olympics have forced the print and online sides of newspaper newsrooms to cooperate as never before, breaking down physical and emotional barriers that previously separated the two camps.
Their need to remain competitive in the face of the fast-moving Lewinsky case and the double-digit time difference between the U.S. and Nagano, Japan, compelled many newspaper editors to reassess their Web site news restrictions and overall strategies.
Industry observers point out that newspapers had little choice but to adjust to new market realities. Audience demand for up-to-the-minute Web news appears to be growing steadily. For instance, 83% of the 2,424 online readers responding to a PC World Online survey two weeks ago said they were following the Lewinsky story. More than 34% said they were actively using the Web to keep up with the latest developments in that White House sex controversy.

News Business is Changing
Newspapers are coming to grips with the fact that the news business is changing, explained Adam Clayton Powell III, vice president of technology and programs at the Freedom Forum. "Many newspapers and magazines now realize they can claim a story as 'theirs' by releasing it to their Web sites hours or days before their presses roll," he said. Powell said newspapers can't think of themselves in either/or terms as "ink-on-paper" or Web sites. "They are in the 'news' business and should break news and sell advertising however they can," he explained.
This new vision was clearly at work in newspaper Olympic coverage as a number of industry leaders, like the New York Times, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times, fed original reporting directly from Nagano onto their Web sites.

'Instant' NYT Coverage
The New York Times on the Web featured round-the-clock coverage including the latest scores, statistics and photos, as well as competition previews, feature stories and pictures from eight New York Times sports staffers and three photographers at the Games.
Bernard Gwertzman, editor of the New York Times on the Web, said that Times' sports reporters in Nagano were not only encouraged to file stories directly to the Web site but were also paid "something extra for that since that is not their usual job."
"I think that we're having, in a funny kind of way, a high-technology revival of old newspaper traditions," Gwertzman said. "If you went back 50 years in New York, you had lots of news and you had lots of afternoon newspapers, so people could get their morning news in the New York Times, the New York Herald-Tribune, Daily News or the Daily Mirror, but then come late morning, the newsstands would have the World Telegram, the Sun, the New York Post, all competing with headlines of events happening during the day."
He said that a year ago newspapers would have fought to keep an exclusive story off the Web so as not to alert the competition, but now newspapers are seriously rethinking and breaking that policy. "They [Times' news managers] are beginning to recognize that the Web site is an integral part of their news operation and it should be treated as a kind of full player in the game," he said.

Ten Hours Ahead of Print
James Brady, the sports editor of the online version of the Washington Post, said Olympic stories destined for the next day's newspapers turned up on the Web site eight to 10 hours before the printing presses ran each day.
"We ran three to four articles per day this way, featuring them on our Olympics front page under a headline 'From Tomorrow's Post' during those times of the day when the articles were in advance of the paper's publication," said Brady. The Post's print edition also ran a box in their Olympic coverage section listing the additional features that could be found on

LAT: 48 Hours Ahead of Print
Adam Bain, a senior online sports editor at the Los Angeles Times' Web site, said after an event was over the sports reporter wrote a story that went up on the Web site so quickly that the Web site was beating the print edition, "in some cases by 48 hours."
He said that as soon as an event was over, the online version of the newspaper ran an AP story, followed by a staff-written article.
In addition to text-based stories, Mike Downey, a sports columnist, also provided with short audio clips of Olympic coverage via RealAudio, an audio streaming technology. Bain explained that each day Downey would phone in and leave a voice message about events of the day and coming events. Those two-minute recordings were then uploaded into a computer with special software that converted them to sound format files that could then be converted into RealAudio "streaming" file format which can be played at will from the Web site. The end result: Web visitors with RealPlayer loaded on their machines could listen to radio-like reports about the day's games from the newspaper columnist.
Randy Reddick, editor of FACSNET, an online resource for journalists, said the Internet is allowing newspapers to break away from their once-a-day news cycle even as it requires them to think about new ways of information delivery. "You are freed from the cycles imposed by printing. This is a no-brainer for newspeople. Events halfway around the world, in a completely different time zone, are of interest to my readers. Am I going to wait for the news cycle to catch up half a day away before I deliver what I can deliver now?" asked Reddick.
Clearly, for some of America's largest newspaper companies, the answer to that question this month became "no."

Newspaper Olympic Sites
Los Angeles Times ?
New York Times ?
Washington Post ?
BY david noack
Crime Story Tax
Proposed In Georgia
News organizations would pay state for publishing certain kinds of crime articles
AGeorgia legislator has introduced a bill to impose a tax on certain kinds of crime stories published by newspapers and other news organizations in the state. The proposed law, which has sparked a firestorm of controversy among First Amendment and free speech advocates, is designed to raise funds to compensate crime victims.
Undertaker and Democratic state legislator Chuck Sims, who sponsored the measure, maintains that if newspapers and other media organizations profit by selling sensational stories about crimes, they should also share some of those revenues with crime victims.
Sims' bill reads in part: "Any individual, partnership, corporation, or other entity which produces for profit a factual account of any crime committed within the State of Georgia as to which the perpetrator or perpetrators have been convicted and sentenced to imprisonment or execution shall be subject to a tax on the gross revenue derived from such production in the following amounts."
Part of a larger "Son of Sam" type law, it would impose a 10% tax on the gross revenue generated by newspapers and other media for printing or airing crime stories. In addition, criminals who try to sell their stories would be taxed 100% on the profits of their proceeds. It's unclear how much the tax measure would raise.
Sims points out the law would not apply to coverage and publication or broadcasting of crime stories from arrest to trial. The tax only applies to the profits from crime stories after an individual has been convicted and sentenced to prison.

Victim Property Rights
"Once they get to the point where they are convicted, the story is over, when the person goes to prison. They [media] are selling it for a profit. This bill is restoring property rights to the victim of the story," said Sims.
He also notes that stories about prison escapes, riots and court appeals would not be taxed and admits that the proposed legislation may have some "problems."
A broad range of Georgia interests appear to agree that the law has problems. The American Civil Liberties Union and the Georgia First Amendment Foundation have blasted the bill as unconstitutional and wrong-headed.
Robin Rhodes, executive director of the Georgia Press Association, said Sims is working on revising the bill. However, she said it would be better if the measure disappeared. "I would like for the bill to just die. It is a bad bill," said Rhodes.
Sims doesn't view the proposed law as a First Amendment issue but as a way to restore property rights to crime victims. To that end, the bill was submitted to the House Ways and Means Committee, a tax-writing panel. It's now been moved to a subcommittee for further review.
Hollie Manheimer, executive director of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation, said,
"The law is unconstitutional and has terrible implications. It's a direct restriction on free speech."
Teresa Nelson, executive director of the
Georgia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said that while the intent of the law is
to help crime victims, attacking media outlets that report crime news is misdirected. "It's taxation based on the content of one's speech, which is unconstitutional," she said.
Many of the state's newspapers have written editorials lambasting the proposal. The Augusta Chronicle characterized the measure as "ridiculous" and in direct violation of the Constitution.
Jane Kirtley, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, said the bill reminds her of a proposal by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to charge reporters fees for being allowed to cover the O.J. Simpson trial.
Kirtley said some of the ideas floated at the time even included copyrighting trial transcripts so reporters would have to pay the county for permission to use the court documents.

?(E&P Web Site:
?(copyright: Editor & Publisher February 28, 1998)


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here