Scott Stanford: Delivering today's news today

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In fall 2001, my wife and I had to drive to a funeral in Washington state. It was then that I broke down and bought our first cell phone. I'm pretty sure we were the last couple to get one.

We didn't get our first DVD player until 2003, and we were on dial-up Internet access until 2004. It was only last year that I figured out how to download music and burn CDs. Now I'm told I need an iPod.

My point is, I'm a little hesitant when it comes to new technology. No fear or anything -- I just don't want to be that guy who spent too much on a Betamax player.

Then again, I also don't want to be the guy who doesn't get it. An example: An editor at a previous newspaper told me that he thought the Internet was a "passing fad," nothing more than a hobby for rich white men. That was 10 years ago -- think he'd like to have that comment back?

I am often asked if, 20 years from now, we still will be printing newspapers on paper. I don't know, but I can make a case both ways.

It's easier to read a printed product than a computer screen, and the tactile quality of a printed advertisement gives it value that the computer can't replicate. But there is no doubt that newspapers can deliver more information at less cost with fewer hassles via the Internet. Throw into that mix a coming generation of readers who are comfortable with getting news online, and the printing of newspapers on dead trees could be, well, dead.

In the meantime, our job is to do it both ways. And that's OK, because the delivery format should not matter. Our job -- to report, write and edit the news -- is the same whether it gets done on paper or in cyberspace.

What we do have to change is our mindset. Historically, we've delivered one news product every 24 hours -- today's news tomorrow, if we will. The Web lets us deliver today's news today.

To do that, we have to treat news stories with a heightened sense of urgency -- when news breaks, we're getting the news to the Web as quickly as possible and then adding information for the print product.

We are not completely remiss in doing this. We reported the announcement of the new city manager nearly the instant it occurred. Same with the Court of Appeals decision to order a new trial for convicted killer Thomas Lee Johnston. You can check www.steamboatpilot.com for breaking news.

But the big stories are easy -- we have to do more. We have to report news as frequently as it occurs. We have to add more photos, more audio, more video and more opportunities for readers to interact with each other and the newspaper. Visitors to www.steamboatpilot.com should be able to find more than a repeat of what we put on newsstands that morning.

Do you prefer paper or the Web? I'm interested in what you think about our Web site, how you use it and what you would like to see us do online. Call or e-mail me with your ideas.

From the Editor appears Thursdays in the Steamboat Today. Send questions to Scott Stanford at sstanford@steamboat pilot.com, or call him at 871-4221.

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