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U.S. CyberNews Connection: Rupert Murdoch-Owned News Ltd.'s New York Bureau Is the First Newsroom in This Country to Use It

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

U.S. CyberNews Connection: Rupert Murdoch-Owned News Ltd.'s New York Bureau Is the First Newsroom in This Country to Use It

Article excerpt

THE FIRST U.S. newsroom to use Cybergraphic Systems' new, Window-based Genera software comprises the eight workstations at News Ltd.'s New York bureau, which accesses the system in Sydney at the Australian arm of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.

Though bureau chief Peter Atkinson said "we do have our own private desk" in the CyberNews system, he called Microsoft Word "our basic writing tool." Staffers work from desktop PCs or on notebook computers with modems that dial into the bureau, which is connected by a dedicated ISDN line to the newsroom in Sydney.

The medium-bandwidth telcomline allows reporters to look through Cybernews directories in Sydney, where the software is installed. Theoretically, said Atkinson, the bureau might someday be able to view made-up pages, but that's not necessary, and for now most copy flows only one way.

"CyberNews was chosen for the New York bureau," said News Ltd. copy process project manager Peter McGuiness, "because it fits into the Windows environment," giving the remote staffers their own local network, access to Sydney "as if they were sitting here" and the ability to run any off-the-shelf applications.

Most bureau stories, Atkinson explained, are written in Word and copied to a clipboard. The reporter then logs into CyberNews, creates a story file and designates a destination desk, then pastes the copy created in Word into the CyberNews file. CyberNews justifies the copy and confirms its storage.

"We can carbon copy it out of . . . Sydney to any of the newspapers for which we write," said Atkinson.

Word provides its own word count, spell check and other helpful features, but Atkinson said CyberNews "doesn't recognize some commands" in Word.

He said such problems are minor. Because CyberNews drops quotation marks in Word, for instance, reporters run a search-and-replace routine, substituting another, recognizable symbol before transmitting completed stories.

The workstations also run Fleet Street's NewsHound software, which browses the wire services.

"It's a smart little system," Atkinson remarked, noting that reporters can create personal baskets that automatically cull certain types of stories from three wires, and they can instruct NewsHound to alert them to store or print certain incoming material. They also can write in files brought in from NewsHound or cut and paste wire copy from the NewsHound window into Word.

McGuiness said NewsHound stores all incoming wire copy for a preset number of days in three separate areas on a server. Users select the wires, story categories or key words and NewsHound reads, sifts and indexes incoming stories.

Searches can be run on the entire stored database. Especially useful to reporters away on assignment, the system can monitor the wires for specified subjects and save any relevant material.

"We've only had this system since February," when it replaced "an antiquated Burroughs system," said Atkinson. "It was a madhouse" dealing with that late-1960s system, added communications manager Phil Hopps, who noted that the old and new systems coexisted for a couple of weeks during a fairly smooth transition. (At the outset of a project, Hopps observes two rules: install twice the number of electrical outlets and fax/modem/phone jacks that plans call for, and "never train a person more than he needs to know" to get started.)

With the original system, reporters lugging older laptops in the field could do no more than write, then dial up Sydney directly using News Corp.'s own software.

But the "reach-out" feature added to the new system, said Atkinson, "is terrific in terms of doing our day-to-day jobs." The software gives him full access to his bureau PC from his notebook computer via modem, enabling him to do just about anything in the field that he can do at the bureau -- "as though I were here at my desk."

Among the few functions not possible is access to Nexis or other modem-mediated third-party services because the desktop PC's modem is already busy talking to the reporter's notebook. …

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