The Internet is officially 30 years old this month. The first packets of data were sent between a Sigma 7 mainframe and UCLA on September 2, according to a posting on the Slashdot Web site (www.slashdot.org). So why is it that TVNZ still can’t be bothered telling us the URLs for Web sites when they run stories about such things? I watched a piece today on a photographic competition called MILK that is being run out of Auckland, but is attracting thousands of top foreign photographers because, according to TVNZ, they marketed it over the Web with "an American email address". And the site address for budding photographers who would like a share of the $1.5 million prize money? Who knows? Television news is wholly responsible for the "dumbing down of the media" we hear about constantly, what with its penchant for cutting to commercial breaks and being the champion of the sound bite. Shows like 20/20 and 60 Minutes are designed to provoke bouts of emotional indigestion rather than any thought-provoking information. But because we are visual creatures we are drawn again and again to the flickering light. We’ve been stuck with TV because after leaving the house in the wee hours of the morning and then being stuck at work all day, TV was the only medium that allowed us to catch up with the day’s events when we returned home in the evening. Want to know what bandwagon the politicians have jumped on today? Check out The News At Six. TV3 even markets their news broadcast in such a manner in the mainstream daily papers: "To see everything that’s happened since this paper was printed, tune in to TV3", which I find faintly patronising and if it were my newspaper I wouldn’t allow that ad to run. Newspapers can’t compete because they are printed each morning and physically distributed. But for a small handful of regional evening papers, now sadly in decline, TV was the only place to turn to in the evening for information. Radio news tends towards the hysterical at times and quite often oversteps the mark in the rush to beat TV to the punch, if it bothers with a news broadcast at all. The days of crowding around the radio to listen to the latest update have long since faded away. However, the worm has turned. The Internet is the best thing that could ever happen to both print journalism and radio, if only we can work out how to make it happen. Television has always been faster than newspapers to any given story because they don’t have to crank up the presses to knock off a quick special edition whenever a news story breaks. They just interrupt the regularly scheduled broadcast and scooped the rest of us. That’s all changing. It’s the Net that breaks news stories now and TV that’s running to catch up. But they never will for one simple fact. The Net has all the resources of a newspaper to put up the background to any story as well as the new angle. TV has archives, of course, but they decline to show us just how awful their reporters looked just a few years ago (Richard Long’s moustache, Angela D’Audney’s hairdos) — it’s a case of TV’s visual nature working against it. Newspaper archives don’t show you how grey a reporter’s hair is getting or the terrible toll all that chocolate has taken. The key will be if radio can get it right. You can listen in to Radio New Zealand, but only for a couple of minutes before you have to log off and send them a fat cheque. Why can’t they see that the Internet should be treated as another broadcast medium and simply used that way? And if they allow us access to their archives, properly indexed of course, they could charge for that. Think of the goldmine that’s out there waiting for all those micro-audiences to delve into. Set up your site so users can dig back through the history and find what they want and then charge them , rather than for access in the first place. Final point and then I’ll shut up. TV One had a piece on about radio station B92 that was shut down by Milosevic during the Kosovo air campaign. It switched to broadcasting on the Net, a point that raised its profile internationally but which escaped the TV One crew who had a puzzled-looking Richard Long tell the world that a radio station was back on the air after the bombing stopped. There was no mention of the role the Internet played and there certainly wasn’t a URL to have a look at. Paul Brislen is Computerworld’s Y2K reporter. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or phone: 0-9-377 902. For publication copy letters to email@example.com
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