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Are we there yet?

Amy DePaul

For newspapers struggling to harness the Internet, the road up ahead is foggy at best. Still, editors at daily papers across the country are beginning to find their way.

At The News Tribune in Tacoma, Washington, public life editor Hunter George describes his organization’s most recent efforts: “Our web editor has been talking about ‘reverse publishing’ for a year or so. Funny how long it’s taken; we are just starting to do it more and more.” In one example, “Our staff writes blogs and then we ‘scrape’ the blogs for information that hasn’t been put in the paper and put it in there.” In other words, newspapers are learning how to take information developed for the Web and adapt it for use in print.

Scraping is a way to promote the Internet edition in the paper, but it’s also a way to save time – something newspaper reporters desperately need in this era of dual responsibilities: that is, writing longer articles for the print edition AND filing short updates for the Website throughout the day.

“We’ve spent most of our careers trying to feed the beast. Now we have another beast,” George says. But he’s quick to concede payoffs. For one, editors and writers can see which stories are popular, because the website tracks articles that get the most hits. When an online story filed during the day spikes suddenly, George explains, that’s a sign that maybe it should be placed on the front page rather than buried inside the print edition.

“We’ve never known before how many eyeballs were looking at a story,” George says. “You just used to stick it in the paper and assume people were reading it. Now there’s proof.”

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