Magazine article Editor & Publisher

The Web Fails Its First Big Test

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

The Web Fails Its First Big Test

Article excerpt

When the unexpected met the unimaginable in Tuesday's terrorist attacks, newspaper Web sites were no match for the numbing pictures of the catastrophe broadcast on TV. The story, after all, wasn't about a 24-hour news cycle: It was war, an unnatural disaster, with horrific developments overlapping before your eyes with such speed that the brain -- never mind the computer keyboard -- couldn't process the information.

Subscribers to The New York Times Direct, the e-mail headline edition with links to The New York Times on the Web (http://www.ny times.com), received four news alerts between 10:02 and 10:38 a.m. EDT. The first two were timed at 10:02: "Plane Crashes Into World Trade Center" and "Second Plane Crashes Into World Trade Center."

The first crash was said to have occurred around 8:45 a.m. At 10:12, a news alert gave word of a plane crashing into the Pentagon, while at 10:38 came the alert: "World Trade Tower Collapses."

There is an explanation for those who noticed that graphics did not load on The New York Times on the Web. "Our first priority is to get the news out. So we stopped serving ads pretty soon after the news broke," Christine Mohan, a spokeswoman for The New York Times' online operation, said at the time. "We have also suspended registration -- the site is available to all users right now."

Washingtonpost.com's home page (http://www .washingtonpost.com) was as spare as the event was profound. "Planes Crash Into World Trade Center; Explosion Rocks Pentagon" was a headline in blue against an almost totally white backdrop, blank except for a live video, provided by Washington Post partner MSNBC, of the collapse of the World Trade Center towers. …

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