NEF - Le Livre 010101 de Marie Lebert - From the Print Media to the Internet

From the Print Media to the Internet (1999)
5. On-Line Press

5.1. On-line Press: Examples and Directories
5.2. Future Trends for the On-line Press

5.1. On-Line Press: Examples and Directories

Before the Web became widespread, the first electronic versions of newspapers were available through commercial services like America Online or CompuServe. Then the publishers of these newspapers created web servers. Numerous newspapers and magazines now have their sites on which they offer the full version of their latest issue - available freely or through subscription (free or paid) - and some dossiers and archives. Other on-line newspapers and magazines did not originally exist in paper version. They are "only" electronic. Everywhere in the world, the future of the on-line press is provoking an in-depth debate on the job of journalist and on copyright problems.

The New York Times' website can be accessed free of charge around the world. It includes the daily contents of The New York Times newspaper, breaking news updates every ten minutes and original reporting found only on the Web. The site of the Los Angeles Times will soon be equipped with a machine translation software provided by Alis Technologies which will translate the web pages into Spanish and French, and later into Japanese. The Washington Post gives the daily news on-line, and has a full database of articles, with images, sound and video.

In the United Kingdom, the Times and the Sunday Times have a common website, with the possibility to create a personalized edition. The Economist, a respected English economic magazine, is also available on-line, as are the French daily newspapers Le Monde and Libération, the Spanish daily newspaper El Pais or the German weekly magazines Focus or Der Spiegel, among many others.

The computer press on-line includes the monthly Wired, created in 1992 in California, a cult magazine which was the first to be dedicated to cyberculture and now wants to be the magazine of the future at the avant-garde of the 21st century. ZDNet is the site of the main publisher of computer magazines in the world.

Some magazines are "only" electronic, like the Chroniques de Cybérie. In The New York Times of November 25, 1997, Bruno Giussani explained:

"Almost no one in the United States has ever heard of Jean-Pierre Cloutier, yet he is one of the leading figures of the French-speaking Internet community. For the last 30 months Cloutier has written one of the most intelligent, passionate and insightful electronic newsletters available on the Internet [...] an original mix of relevant Internet news, clear political analysis and no-nonsense personal opinions. It was a publication that gave readers the feeling that they were living 'week after week in the intimacy of a planetary revolution'."

Several sites maintain directories of the international press.

AJR/NewsLink is a joint venture between American Journalism Review magazine and NewsLink Associates, an academic and professional research and consulting firm studying electronic publishing and visual journalism worldwide. The site includes features from AJR magazine, the worldwide on-line publication lists of NewsLink - 8,000 links to newspapers, magazines, broadcasters and news services - and original content created especially for on-line readers.

Run by Oxbridge Communications Inc., MediaFinder is a major database of print media and catalogs. It is also a transactional service center, offering the ability to request subscriptions, advertising and list rental rates-for over 95,000 magazines, catalogs, newsletters, newspapers, and more.

Pathfinder is the website of TIME-Warner Group, publisher of TIME Magazine, Sports illustrated, Fortune, People, Southern Living, Money, Sunset, etc., with a free search function of articles by time period (last week, last month, or all).

Several digital libraries have extensive directories of the press on the Web, for example News, Media and Periodicals, maintained by the Michigan Electronic Library (MEL).

"More than 3,600 newspapers now publish on the Internet, but there are signs that the tide of growth may ebb", Eric K. Meyer stated when analyzing the presence of the newspapers on the Web in an article of AJR/NewsLink:

"A full 43% of all on-line newspapers now [end of 1997] are based outside the United States. A year ago, only 29% of on-line newspapers were located abroad. Rapid growth, primarily in Canada, the United Kingdom, Norway, Brazil and Germany, has pushed the total number of non-U.S. on-line newspapers to 1,563. The number of U.S. newspapers on-line also has grown markedly, from 745 a year ago to 1,290 six months ago to 2,059 today.

Outside the United States, the United Kingdom, with 294 on-line newspapers, and Canada, with 230, lead the way. In Canada, every province or territory now has at least one on-line newspaper. Ontario leads the way with 91, Alberta has 44, and British Columbia has 43.

Elsewhere in North America, Mexico has 51 on-line newspapers, 23 newspapers are on-line in Central America and 36 are on-line in the Caribbean. Europe is the next most wired continent for newspapers, with 728 on-line newspaper sites. After the United Kingdom, Norway has the next most - 53 - and Germany has 43. Asia (led by India) has 223 on-line newspapers, South America (led by Bolivia) has 161 and Africa (led by South Africa) has 53. Australia and other islands have 64 on-line newspapers."

The Web is the site of a collaborative effort between several companies in newspaper publishing. Opened between February 1997 and March 1998, NewsWorks was the common site of America's newspapers on-line maintained by New Century Network, a grouping of nine of the largest companies in newspaper publishing (Advance Publications; Cox Newspapers; The Gannett Company; The Hearst Corporation; Knight-Ridder Inc.; The New York Times Company; Times Mirror; The Tribune Company; The Washington Post Company), representing 140 titles. It was closed on March 10, 1998, because of dissension and a lack of cohesion between the partners. Even if this first partnership failed, the Web will probably foster some multinational and multilingual information services, and this will deeply change the habits brought by long-term traditional competition.

The electronic press is listed for example in E.Journal and the E-Zine-List.

E.Journal is the WWW Virtual Library electronic journals list. Provided by E-DOC (Electronic Publishing Solutions), it is the database of electronic journals, with the following categories: academic and reviewed journals; college or university; e-mail newsletters; magazines, newspapers; political; print magazines; publishing topics; business/finance; and other resources.

Updated monthly, the E-Zine-List is John Labovitz's list of electronic 'zines around the world, accessible via the Web, FTP, gopher, e-mail, and other services. 3,045 zines were listed on November 29, 1998. On the website, John Labovitz explains:

"What's an 'e-zine', anyway? For those of you not acquainted with the zine world, 'zine' is short for either 'fanzine' or 'magazine', depending on your point of view. Zines are generally produced by one person or a small group of people, done often for fun or personal reasons, and tend to be irreverent, bizarre, and/or esoteric. Zines are not 'mainstream' publications - they generally do not contain advertisements (except, sometimes, advertisements for other zines), are not targeted towards a mass audience, and are generally not produced to make a profit. An 'e-zine' is a zine that is distributed partially or solely on electronic networks like the Internet. [...]

I started this list in the summer of 1993. I was trying to find some place to publicize Crash, a print zine I'd recently made electronic versions of. All I could find was the alt.zines newsgroup and the archives at The WELL and ETEXT. I felt there was a need for something less ephemeral and more organized, a directory that kept track of where e-zines could be found. So I summarized the relevant info from a couple dozen e-zines and created the first version of this list.

Initially, I maintained the list by hand in a text editor; eventually, I wrote my own database program (in the Perl language) that automatically generates all the text, links, and files.

In the four years I've been publishing the list, the Net has changed dramatically, in style as well as scale. When I started the list, e-zines were usually a few kilobytes of plain text stored in the depths of an FTP server; high style was having a Gopher menu, and the Web was just a rumor of a myth. The number of living e-zines numbered in the low dozens, and nearly all of them were produced using the classic self-publishing method: scam resources from work when no one's looking.

Now the e-zine world is different. The number of e-zines has increased a hundredfold, crawling out of the FTP and Gopher woodworks to declaring themselves worthy of their own domain name, even of asking for financial support through advertising. Even the term 'e-zine' has been co-opted by the commercial world, and has come to mean nearly any type of publication distributed electronically. Yet there is still the original, independent fringe, who continue to publish from their heart, or push the boundaries of what we call a 'zine'."

5.2. Future Trends for the On-Line Press

A new type of press has been born. In an article of the French daily newspaper Libération of March 21, 1997, Laurent Mauriac underlined the fact that February 28, 1997, was an important date in the history of press, journalism and the Internet. At 3.15 PM, one of the ten U.S. main daily newspapers, the Dallas Morning News, gave an exclusive on its website: Timothy McVeigh, the main suspect in the Oklahoma City bomb attack, just admitted he was guilty of this crime. Suddenly, the relationship between the on-line issue and the paper issue were inverted - for the first time, an exclusive piece of news was not given by a paper issue but by an on-line issue.

Less than one year later, the new mechanism was running fine. Pierre Briançon, another journalist of Libération, explained in an article of January 30, 1998, that the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky scandal (about the sexual relationship between the president of the United States and a White House intern) was "the first main political event all the details of which are instantaneously reproduced on the Web". Most of the main media in the world were running a special web page or report on this matter. "For the first time, the Web appears as a direct and violent competitor, not only of newspapers - handicapped by their periodicity - but also of radios or televisions."

As these two examples show, the introduction of the Web in the press, and vice versa, created a new type of press on-line, which offers almost instantaneous information, or in any case much quicker than that given by TV and radio. The information can also be much more comprehensive thanks to the hyperlinks leading to other information sources and documents.

However, as was made clear particularly during the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, cyberjournalists need a professional code of ethics. In an interview given to the German multimedia magazine Com! in March 1998, Hermann Meyn, president of the Federation of German Journalists (Deutscher Journalisten Verband - DJV) showed the necessity for such a code because the flood of information is much more rapid on the Internet than in the classic media, and rumors and false news spread much more quickly. National laws would not be enough to fight against this tendency on the Internet which is a worldwide computer network. A professional code of ethics for journalists would be much more effective.

Another important problem is the constant pressure exerted on journalists. During the ILO Symposium on Multimedia Convergence held in January 1997, Bernie Lunzer, Secretary-Treasurer of the Newspaper Guild, United States, stated:

"Our reporters have seen new deadline pressures build as the material is used throughout the day, not just at the end of the day. There is also a huge safety problem in the newsrooms themselves due to repetitive strain injuries. Some people are losing their careers at the age of 34 and 40 due to repetitive strain injuries, a problem that was unheard of in the age of the typewriter. But as people work 8- to 10-hour shifts without ever leaving their terminals, this has become an increasing problem."

Carlos Alberto de Almeida, president of the Federación Nacional de Periodistas (FENAJ) (National Federation of Professional Journalists), also denounced the exploitation of journalists:

"Technology offers the opportunity to rationalize work, to reduce working time and to encourage intellectual pursuits and even entertainment. But so far none of this has happened. On the contrary, media professionals - whether executives, journalists or others - are working longer and longer hours. If one were to rigorously observe the labour legislation and the rights of professionals, then the extraordinary positive aspects of these new technologies would emerge. This has not been the case in Brazil. Journalists can be easily phoned on weekends to do extra work without extra pay."

While it speeds up the production process, the automation of working methods, beginning with digitization, leads to a decrease in human intervention and consequently an increase in unemployment. Whereas previously, the production staff had to retype the texts of the editorial staff, computerized typesetting led to the combination of the two tasks of editing and composing. In advertising services too, graphic design and commercial tasks are now integrated.

As Etienne Reichel, Acting Director of VISCOM (Visual Communication), Switzerland, said:

"The work of 20 typesetters is now carried out by six qualified workers. There has also been a concentration of centres of production, thus placing enormous pressure on the small and medium-sized enterprises which are traditional sources of employment. [...] Computer science makes it possible for experts to become independent producers. Approximately 30 per cent of employees have set up independently and have been able to carve out part of the market."

Although on-line services create some new jobs, as directors of organizations of newspaper publishers often claim, the unions have also stated that the number of job creations is much lower than the number of dismissals.

Even if the Internet is a huge information tank, the press will always need journalists, as explained by Jean-Pierre Cloutier, editor of the Chroniques de Cybérie, in an article of WebdoMag of July 1998:

"Some people predicted the short-term disappearance of the traditional media and their creators. 'We won't need journalists any more when a good browser for News groups is available', Michael Hauben of Columbia University warned two years ago. 'The more people there are on-line, the more marginalized the professional information media will be.' This is rubbish.

The spirit of discovery and the taste for exploration and technical experimentation of those who were early in adopting the Internet (the ones that the sociologists of the Net call the early doers) are not shared by the second wave of users who now make up the largest part of this 'critical mass'.

And that is the challenge for the specialized press - to accompany the public in its discovery of the new medium and in its appropriation of cyberspace, help people to analyze, facilitate their understanding, add value to raw information."

Moreover, with the Internet, it is possible to read on-line titles which are difficult to find in newsstands, like the Algerian daily newspaper El Watan, on-line since October 1997. When interviewed by the French daily newspaper Le Monde of March 23, 1998, Redha Belkhat, chief editor, told: "For the Algerian diaspora, to find in a newsstand of London, New York, or Ottawa an issue of El Watan less than a week old is an achievement. Now the newspaper is here at 6 AM, and at noon it is on the Internet."

Forbidden newspapers can also continue on-line thanks to the Internet, such as the independent Algerian daily La Nation (The Nation). Because it was denouncing the violation of human rights in Algeria, it had to stop its activities in December 1996. One year later, a special issue was available on the site of Reporters sans frontières (Reporters Without Borders) for the first anniversary of its disappearance. Malti Djallan, who is at the origin of this Reporters sans frontières initiative, explained: "By putting La Nation on-line, our goal was to say: it no longer makes sense to censor the newspapers in Algeria, because thanks to the Internet people can retrieve the articles, print them, and spread them out around."

Nouvelles du bled (News of the Village) is an electronic newspaper created in December 1997 by Christian Debraisne, who is French, and Mohamed Zaoui, an Algerian journalist in exile. The team includes about twelve persons who meet on Thursday evenings in a Parisian café. When interviewed in Le Monde of March 23, 1998, Christian Debraisne, who is responsible for the composition, explained:

"With the Internet, we found a space for free expression and, as a bonus, there were no printing and distribution problems. I get all the articles and I put them on-line during the night from my house."

The press review is prepared using the newspapers of Algiers, Algeria. In the same article, Mohamed Zaoui explained:

"The editorial staff of El Watan, for example, sends us articles which cannot be published there. It is a way to confound censorship. I wanted to be useful and I thought that my role as a journalist was to seize the opportunity the Internet was offering to air opinions other than the Algerian government's and the fundamentalists'."

The press now has to confront all the Internet's resources:

- instant access to many information servers;
- speed in information dissemination;
- development of main photographic archives;
- gigantic documentation capacity (geographical maps, biographical notes, official texts, political and economic documents, audiovisual and video documents, etc.) going from the general to the specialized and vice versa;
- links to all these information sources and other articles on the same topic; and
- archives equipped with a search engine allowing the retrieval of articles by date, author, title, subject, etc.

Because of these resources, the Internet brings in-depth information that no other media could bring so easily. Daily information is supported by a whole encyclopedia which helps to understand it.

Even if audiovisual and video techniques are more and more present in the on-line press, the most important thing is still its content, as Jean-Pierre Cloutier, the editor of the Chroniques de Cybérie, reminded us in his e-mail of June 8, 1998:

"For the Chroniques de Cybérie, we could launch and maintain a formula because of the relatively low entry costs in this medium. However, everything will depend on the scope of the phenomenon called media 'convergence' and a possible rise of production costs if we need to offer audio and video products to stay competitive. If that is the case, we will have to think over strategic partnerships, a little like the one linking us to the group Ringier which permitted the re-launching of the Chroniques after six months of inactivity. But whatever the degree of convergence is, I think there will always be room for written work, and also for in-depth analysis on the main questions."

Chapter 6: Libraries on the Web
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From the Print Media to the Internet
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© 1999 Marie Lebert