Local news sites vary widely in attack coverage

As Internet news sites the world over responded yesterday to the US and Britain's airstrikes on Iraq, local news services responded with varying degrees of alacrity. The dedicated Internet news services performed easily the best, the New Zealand herald used its newfound ability to get breaking stories up - and the broadcasters' Web sites failed altogether to meet the challenge.

As Internet news sites the world over responded yesterday to the US and Britain's airstrikes on Iraq, local news services responded with varying degrees of alacrity.

The dedicated Internet news service Newsroom www.newsroom.co.nz had a story quoting CNN reports of bombing up at 10.53am - and, remarkably, an editorial by staff reporter Alastair Thompson, 'Something Is Rotten In The Heart Of America', a mere five minutes later.

The service stayed on the story all day, posting Prime Minister Jenny Shipley's statement to the house and a further angry analysis titled 'War In Gulf - There Goes The World' before 1pm. Staffer Greg Meylan reported Clinton's statement around 1pm and an hour later, Newroom managing editor Peter Fowler posted his transcript of Clinton's statement. By 2.45 the tireless Thompson had posted a "first four hours" roundup.

Perhaps anticipating action, Newroom had only an hour before the first reports reposted a two-part interview originally published in November with New Zealander Terrence O'Brien, the former chair of the Iraq Sanctions Committee of the United Nations Security Council

The locally-based 7AM.com, www.7am.com wasted no time getting together a banner proclaiming that 'The Strike Against Iraq Was Reported Here First!' (unless, perhaps, presumably, you happened to be watching CNN too) and provided frequent rolling updates throughout the day.

The New Zealand Herald, www.herald.co.nz, which only this week gained the ability for editorial staff to post stories themselves, replaced its early-morning lead with a story about the attacks and promised "comprehensive coverage and backgrounders in tomorrow's Herald". The much more established Press Online did not respond to the breaking news.

NBR Network, www.nbr.co.nz had its usual feeds from IRN, Reuters and Dow Jones - but four bouts of clicking and waiting to actually bring up a news story will probably have been too much for most casual Web users.

Ironically, the broadcasters, the usual kings of breaking news, fumbled the opportunity on the Internet. By 3pm yesterday, TV One News www.tvone.co.nz was still leading with Gilbert Myles. TV3 www.tv3.co.nz had Wednesday night's story of weapons inspectors pulling out of Baghdad. Its 'Live Newswire' spent all afternoon telling visitors that "News headlines are being updated - please call back soon."

National Radio's live Internet audio service www.radionz.co.nz was as treacherous and unusable as ever, with its pointless Java applets and whether-you-like-it-or not live audio stream. And if you could avoid your browser crashing, well, there was only Wayne Mowatt playing anyway.

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