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Rural Wire Service Debuts on Internet

  By Del Tartikoff
  copyright (c) 1996, Electric Nevada

A new co-operative wire service for rural newspapers, radio stations and news correspondents in Nevada and the West was launched this week on the Internet.  

Backers of the new operation include the Elko Daily Free Press and Electric Nevada.
"The Rural Internet Wire Service will allow those of us with an interest in news outside the state's population centers to exchange information of interest to our readers," said Free Press editor Dan Steninger.
"Using the Internet, subscribers to RIWS will be able to exchange news articles and graphics, as well as receive articles written especially for the service."
In a letter sent to other Nevada editors and news directors earlier this month, Steninger outlined some similarities and differences RIWS will have to the AP news service.
"Just as with the Associated Press wire, subscribers will be able to place their articles on the wire and bring in the articles that interest them from other papers.
"RIWS will be different in that the focus will be on news with importance to rural Nevada, plus, all the stories placed on the service by our newspapers and RIWS correspondents will be available to every subscriber.
"There won't be anybody deciding which articles are worthy and which aren't. That will be left up to you," he told the editors.
Electric Nevada editor Steve Miller said that the Associated Press tends to function like a 'sinkhole' for a lot of news from rural communities.
"It's not anything really intended," he said. "It's just that the economics of AP's business mean that AP needs to devote most time and resources to what best serves the big-city papers.
"That means news put on the AP wire by rural papers often won't be sent out to papers in general unless it appears it would be interesting for city readers. And thus it may not even get transmitted out to other rural papers."
Miller said it was because Electric Nevada focuses on stories of special interest to folks living in the High Desert that the need for the rural wire first became apparent.
"We saw there wasn't that much regional news reporting aimed directly at the concerns of rural readers, and thought there had to be a better way.
"It dawned on us that the papers in these areas all have readers who are employed in ranching, mining and agriculture and face common issues, such as today's much more militant federal agencies."
Miller said he expects the long-run effect of the wire service, and the Internet, to be a rural Nevada that is more integrated -- within itself and with the rest of the state.
"When you have the rural papers across the state easily communicating back and forth, sharing information and discussing common problems," he said, "it has to eventually mean better informed readers in all those different rural communities.
"Once that happens, I'd tend to expect some kind of sea-change

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in the consciousness of the entire rural community, statewide, followed by a change in the ongoing dialogue between the 15 counties of rural Nevada and the two of Clark and Washoe."
A big reason why Miller expects rural news operations to sign on with RIWS is that they all need to save money.
"Good news reporting is always expensive -- it takes time and energy and therefore money. It's rarely cost-effective for one small rural paper to pour in a lot of resources to fully cover a regional story.
"But if that paper has access to a market of other papers with similar needs -- papers which might be inclined to pay a small fee to reprint such a story -- then the situation could be different," he said. "We'll just have to see how well reporting like this gets supported by the marketplace."
Ty Chamberlain, general manager for RIWS, says another way the wire service will help the bottom line of subscribing news firms is simply by providing a great amount of news at very low cost.
"For less than the cost of one reporter's salary for one day, they'll be receiving a tremendous amount of news over the course of a month," he said.
Chamberlain expects a large number of freelance writers, reporters and even illustrators to eventually join the service in order to be able to offer for-fee work in the RIWS marketplace.
If writers or illustrators or photographers have some work they would like to sell to rural editors, he said, they can put a synopsis or thumbnail of it on the wire, with a suggested price, and see if there are any takers.
Chamberlain also expects the editors and news directors to solicit work from writers and artists on the service -- announcing custom work they need and for which they would pay.
"The beauty of the system," he says, "is that a subscriber can send out a message saying that he or she wants a particular kind of story, photo, graphic, etc. The message is then received by everyone on the service and can be replied to at the speed of light.
"An example would be a message stating that 'I need a political cartoon of the current situation in Such-and-such City, referencing the local board of supervisors.' I send the message out and get a reply that Paul, the cartoonist, can do the piece for $100, and attached is a quick sketch of the idea. I look at it, like it and order it."
Chamberlain says the service has three different subscription levels -- one for free-lance writers and artists, another for papers with a circulation base under 20,000, and a third for papers larger than that.
For the first 90 days of the service -- dating from the middle of October -- there is no sign-up fee, he said.
Chamberlain and the RIWS can be reached at 800-311-1399.


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