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August 30, 2005

Interactivity and the News

Interactivity is a key characteristic that differs among various news media. Broadcast news, print news, and news accessible over the Internet cover the same stories, but vary in their levels of interactivity.

When watching the six o'clock news, for example, one can either decide to watch what has been preselected as the story-of-the-moment, or not. If uninterested, the viewer must wait for the story's conclusion and the network to introduce the next topic. August 30th for example, the local news network WTAE-Pittsburgh allotted more than 80 percent of its on-air time to the coverage of hurricane Katrina. Only two local stories were investigated deeply in two hours of viewing. While the hurricane no doubt has affected more lives than the Pittsburgh Penguins re-signing Dick Tarnstrom, had the viewer lost interest in hurricane coverage, his only option would have been to change the channel.

Luckily for news seekers there are alternatives to broadcast news. When reading printed news one can not only choose what story to read, but also how much of it to read. There exists a natural order or prioritizing of news stories by their importance, but the reader remains primarily in control. If he is looking for the score from last week's game, real estate, or the comics, he can quickly determine his news-reading destiny. Also, some writers provide their e-mail addresses or other contact information, giving the reader another opportunity to interact.

The Internet is by far the most interactive medium through which to access the news. Online bloggers and news sites post up-to-the-minute news as well as provide the same freedom as newspapers for the reader to choose his story and time devotion. In addition, one can access streaming video footage, an array of pictures, and hyperlinks to other news sources that may have more information. News websites have polls in which the readers can compare their opinions to the opinions of others, and some even go so far as to provide a forum for user discussion. Online news is the future of news.

Newspapers and news stations alike know the advantages of online media and are already making changes. WTAE-Pittsburgh for example has a website (www.thepittsburghchannel.com) with all of the aforementioned perks of online news. So does the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (www.triblive.com). Viewers like to feel involved with their news. Seeing how they compare to others in their community, and feeling that their opinion matters, makes them keep coming back for more. The Internet will never completely dominate the news, but for television and print news sources to survive they will have to accommodate the demand for interactivity and provide an online affiliate of some kind.

Posted by DavidDenninger at August 30, 2005 04:47 PM

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