Magazine article Communication World

Personalized, Computerized News Via Satellite

Magazine article Communication World

Personalized, Computerized News Via Satellite

Article excerpt

Personalized, computerized news via satellite

Put several dozen scientists and technicians on a ship in the middle of nowhere for two months straight, and what do they request?


That's something Karen Riedel can provide. She is coordinator of public information for the Ocean Drilling Program in College Station, Texas.

But, the job is a bit complicated. To begin with, the scientific drill ship stations itself out of helicopter range - no print media can be flown in - and often it is out of radio range. People on board are unaware of what is happening back home.

"Back home," to further complicate matters, could be one of 20 countries in partnership exploring the earth's structure beneath the sea floor.

Among the 115 people on board for each cruise to remote waters are the U.S.-based drilling crew; scientists from European countries, Japan, the U.S.S.R., or the U.S. with various earth science specialties; and engineers, system analysts, photographers, and others who staff the labs and are employees of Texas A&M University, also in College Station, Texas.

The employer of the drilling crew and owner of the vessel communicates with the ship daily via satellite, sending stock market news, sports, and the leads of two major news stories.

"But there's still a gap," said Riedel. "That's where I come in. My news to the ship is different in that it's weekly and it's targeted - targeted to the scientists specifically and to the [Texas A&M] technical crew," she said.

And she does mean targeted! At the beginning of each two-month cruise, Riedel notes the home countries of the scientists on board. Those country names become "keywords" for a computer search of stories filed by AP, UPI, Reuters, and the Washington Post.

Riedel uses Executive News Service (ENS), an electronic clipping service available on CompuServe, that allows her to scan and save stories as they are released from the news wires.

With ENS, Riedel creates three "folders" into which the selected electronic stories are deposited. The first folder is for articles that match the keyword countries.

Into the second folder go articles on science topics, using seven keywords including earth, ship, volcano, and scien*. The asterisk is a clue to the computer to match all words starting with "scien," including science, scientist, and scientific. "I send in-depth science stories that I think they might be interested in," Riedel said.

The third category is business. The AP wire does a daily "business highlights" summary that she finds useful. …

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