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September 2, 1999
The best of the major news sites
listen to what anyone else says -- the Web's "killer app" is news sites.
Of all the wonderful things that the Internet allows you to do -- from
tracking overnight packages to booking airline tickets -- nothing can
match the quantity and quality of useful news sources on the Web. There
are more than 5,000 newspapers alon online. And when you add in the number
of radio, television and magazine sites, or all the Web-only products
(including a handful of sites that publish solely what they consider positive
news) the range is staggering. What follows are the best U.S-based general
news sites, in no particular order. As you'll see, most of them have ties
to "old media," proving that a deep tradition and deeep pockets
are still advantages
Yahoo! Full Coverage
Other news sites may get more publicity, but if you haven't seen what
Yahoo! has done to the news, you ain't seen nothing. Its Full Coverage,
is an excellent staring point for news on any subject. Say you want to
read about developments in Kosovo. You will find links to the latest wire
stories, newspaper and magazine articles, video and audio clips, photos,
maps, message boards and, of course, relevant Web sites. The site does
a good job of highlighting all sides of a story, including international
links, on one page. Among the topics covered are business, entertainment
and sports. Sure it's not original content, but it's packaging and delivery
at its best.
Back in the days when cable TV was what we called new media, CNN stood
out as a clear leader. Ditto now for its presence in the online world.
CNN's site, at www.cnn.com, is clean
and easy to navigate. Breaking news (compiled from wire services and bureau
feeds) is front and center and is the main reason to bookmark the site.
But look, too, for the in-depth, multimedia sections where single topics
are explored using the network's video sources along with interactive
touches. The site obviously includes a lot of promotion for teh on-air
programs -- you can watch last night's "Crossfire" and even learn about
Larry King's vacation home, courtesy of his home page.
Rumors of the
death of radio have been greatly exaggerated, and the site of National
Public Radio, at www.npr.org, is proof
that radio and the Net do mix. Armed with streaming audio software, you
can listen to the top news each hour as well as archives of selected programs,
including the celebrated "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered."
If you don't get up early enough for your dose of NPR or don't have a
radio at work, this is one way to access the comfortable voices that bring
you the world.
Any venture with Microsoft in its name is bound to be a showcase for the
technical capabilities of a certain software maker in Redmond, Washington.
And the Web arm of MSNBC --the joint venture of Microsoft and NBC -- is
no different (www.msnbc.com). The good
news is that the technology helps improve the product. For instance, there's
a short, one-time download that allows you to browse all the headlines
and navigate the entire site with one click. Plenty of video and audio
is, naturally, on hand, highlighting clips from the big NBC News shows.
The online offering
of ABC News, at www.abcnews.com,
is a solid combination of breaking news and items that will tempt you
to linger. The site offers the usual mix of national and international
news along with business, technology, entertainment and health news; stands
out for its analysis and backgrounders ("Beginners Guide to the Balkans,"
for example). Capitalizing on its TV parent, the site uses a lot of video
clips and allows users to react to and dissect, shows such as "Nightline."
USA Today, the newspaper known for its shorter stories, compelling graphics
and colorful pages, read and felt like a Web site long before the Web
came along. So it's no wonder that the daily should feel at home on the
Internet. Its site, at www.usatoday.com,
works well to combine the paper's content with updated stories and features.
Yes, the famous weather maps are there is all their glory, with more meteorological
minutae than almost anyone could need.
No tour of online news sites would be complete without mention of the
venerable Associated Press wire service. If daily newspapers are dependent
on agencies to fill their pages, the news Web sites are even more dependent
on them to fill their screens. Almost all the sites use AP or other wire
service, such as Reuters, for updated news, photos, even video throughout
the day. The AP site, at www.ap.org, is
mostly a brochure for the company, but it does provide access to "The
Wire," AP's round-the-clock feed of stories.
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