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Newspapers are urged to reach out to Web

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NEW ORLEANS (AFX) - Online journalists warned a meeting of newspaper editors Thursday that their industry's survival depends on how well they can engage and excite the masses of readers on the Web.

While delving into the digital age may seem daunting, "it's not nearly as frightening as what will happen to journalism if we don't embrace it," Jim Brady, executive editor of, said during the Associated Press Managing Editors annual conference.

The Internet provides opportunities for storytelling and interacting with readers that traditional newspapers do not, Brady and panelists at the conference said. From video and photo galleries to podcasts and blogs, the Web is opening new doors to lure in readers and otherwise build community.

"People are desperate for community," Jon Fortt, senior editor of Business2.0 magazine, said during a panel discussion on attracting young readers. That included jargon such as "widgets," which are blocks of information, and mentioned the value social networking sites can offer for finding story ideas and sources.

"They're looking to share ideas," Fortt said.

Some journalists view the rise of the Web culture as a threat to newspapers -- and they should, Fortt said in an interview.

"It's a threat to our previous mode of packaging," said the 29-year-old Fortt, adding that he reads more news now than ever and gets most of it from the Web.

"But there's a bigger appetite for journalism, for credible information and community than there's ever been. And those are the core competencies of journalism," he said.

Editors cannot settle for an online replica of what is delivered to people's doorsteps every morning, Fortt cautioned.

Brady, in a separate address, echoed that, noting that newspapers aren't just competing with each other but also with the likes of Google, CNN and blogs. He said his site throws out as many "fishing lines" as possible to try to hook readers, including blogs, online discussions with newsmakers, sound, databases and opportunities for readers to share their own stories.

Fifty Washington Post reporters also have video cameras to carry into the field, and reporters are being trained in the art each day, Brady said. "A 15-inch story of an ambush is not nearly as effective as video of an ambush," he said, referring to a video clip taken by a reporter in Iraq.

Joel Sappell, executive editor of, said the Web offers more than "cool, quick interactive potential." It offers the opportunity to create community, even in large, diverse cities, he said.

An example is allowing Web visitors a place to learn more about real estate or the outdoors and providing an opportunity for them to interact with people of similar interests, he said.

"You can get something for everyone, and that for me was the greatest reason to get to the Web site," said Sappell, who is also an assistant managing editor of the Los Angeles Times.

Dean Baquet, editor of the Los Angeles Times, said during an APME luncheon that he foresees the newsroom of the future being much more integrated with different technologies, calling it "an exciting marriage of online and print."

Any newspaper that writes a good story can now make it available to the world, Baquet said, adding that newsrooms are only now beginning to take advantage of new technology.

The Associated Press is the world's oldest and largest newsgathering organization, providing content to more than 15,000 news outlets with a daily reach of 1 billion people around the world. APME is an organization of editors and managing editors of the more than 1,500 U.S. and Canadian newspapers served by the AP. Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be

Copyright 2006 AFX News Limited. All Rights Reserved.

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