Vol. 22, No.1/Fall 1999
By Laura Mann
As Newslibbers everywhere gather their confetti and party hats to usher in the New Year, some others have taken the time to share their thoughts on the role of technology and our profession for the year 2000 and beyond.
Pete Basofin of the Sacramento Bee reports being obsessed with two recent developments which he thinks will have a big impact on the way people communicate and publish: audio and video conferencing via the Internet and portable digital reading devices. Basofins thoughts on these innovations follow:
"With inexpensive microphones and digital video cameras, you can already do audio and video chatting with anyone in the world. Netmeeting and Hearme.com both provide virtual gathering places. Netmeeting videoconferencing is one-to-one; Hearme audiochatting can take up to 32 participants in a single "room." Recently eGroups, the free email list service, added "Talk" to its offerings. Group audioconferencing is essentially free conference calling, and is likely to become popular with businesses and organizations doing things over long distances. With white-board and application sharing, it's easy to envision virtual conventions in cyberspace. What's the impact on journalism? Well, you can see how email has been adopted by reporters as a way to communicate with sources. In some cases, email has replaced the telephone and fax machine. Don't think it's much of a leap for reporters to start using audio and video to interview one-to-one or attend virtual press conferences. A few reporters I know have used RealAudio to "attend" live press conferences held by NASA."
Basofin continues, "The popularity of hand-held, personal digital assistants (like the Palm III) has prompted a bunch of third-party developers to create ways to get news content to portable digital reading devices. AvantGo is acting as a vendor for Salon, Wired, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and even the Sacramento Bee. After you connect to AvantGo, you are able to download multiple publications directly into the hand-held. Personally, I think the typical PDA is too small for regular reading, but there is a new category of portable reading devices that have larger screens. The first generation of ebook readers are on the market. Softbook and Rocket eBook seem to be the leaders. Not many of these things have been sold, so it's too early to tell if they'll succeed. I bought a ReB recently and think it's very practical for reading material of any length. The ReB can acquire web pages along with linked pages, so it's great for grabbing HTML stuff off the Internet. I can import the palm version of Wired News every day into my ReB. Very cool. Ebooks need to connect directly to PCs to get new content. But many PDAs come with wired and wireless modems which can directly connect to the internet for email or web pages. A Bee colleague connects his Palm III to AvantGo using an old 14.4 external modem. He doesn't need to use his Mac as an intermediary. With this PC-less transport of news to a portable device, you can see implications for the future of print journalism. There goes the printing press and delivery truck."
Stephanie Willen Brown, Library Director of the Springfield Union-News looks forward to replacing all those dusty rolls of microfilm:
"One thing I think (hope?) will happen is that CD technology will become really standard, and really reliable - and someday take over microfilm. Maybe this is more of a wish list, but I'd love to see all my microfilm (175 years worth!) converted to CD-ROM. It would be searchable by keyword - not sure if we'd have time or energy to go back and index the whole shebang- but maybe headlines, bylines, and dates would be searchable. I guess if that were the case, we could make our ENTIRE backfile available to Nexis, UMI/Bell & Howell, Newsbank, etc. And then it would be available to the whole world, and we'd make lots of money."
Stacie Marinelli, who interned this past summer at the San Jose Mercury News, observes:
"I think the thing we need more than new technology is good old-fashioned conversation. How can we get beat reporters to sit down with us and tell us what they REALLY need for a story or series? How can we all work more as a team, rather than newsroom versus research library? In-depth communication (sometimes) gets lost in the shuffle. That said, I do think the future holds more raw data posted on the web by government agencies and other organizations for us to access and analyze. And databases with slicker interfaces (not 10 clicks to get to the section we need, but direct access) that address users' needs more clearly. In the future, journalism school grads will have a more sophisticated grasp of databases, thereby altering researchers' workloads. And more researchers and reporters will use CAR as a tool to get down deep into an issue."
Whatever changes future technologies bring, were all sure to "get by with a little help from our friends." To this end, never underestimate the value of joining a Users Group or listserv where you can share your tech tips or problems with like-minded colleagues.
Carol Campbell, Information Center Manager at The Daily Oklahoman, reports that an AP Preserver Users Group, has been formed. The group has at least 35 members who work with the AP photo archiving system. The group planned to meet in Orlando in October to elect officers and conduct other business. For more information, Carol can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Elizabeth Durso, Director, SAVE Support, for MediaStream, Inc. has responded to News Division member interest in creating a Labrador/Explorer/SAVE 4.0 User Group listserv. Durso says that MediaStream will host the list, but not moderate it, commenting only when invited by list members. All interested parties can contact Durso at email@example.com.
Tim Rozgonyi, Assistant Technology Systems Editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has launched a listserv and users group for newspapers using the CText editorial pagination system. Those interested may contact Rozgonyi at firstname.lastname@example.org. Rozgonyi also asks for tips from others with experience in forming users groups or associations. Rozgonyi asks, "what are some tricks for getting things going? What were some problems you encountered? What kinds of rules or by-laws do you need?"
The News Division is forming a new Automation-Technology committee, chaired by Justin Scroggs of Time, Inc. While nothing is set in stone, possible topics tackled by the group include coming up with standards or specs for new archiving or other systems; keeping up-to-date lists of who uses which system; offering guidance on intranet development and more. This committee most likely will be divided into sub-committees dealing with specific technology areas. Those interested may contact Justin at email@example.com.
Laura Mann is a researcher at Newsday. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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