Internet 'Specializes' Convention


Thursday, August 17th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


NEW YORK (AP) — With dozens of Web sites diving into politics, viewers following the Democratic National Convention have more choice than ever. And specialty sites catering to the spectrum of voices — conservatives, Hispanics, women, Jews — allow people to read the news through the lens of their choice.

Want to learn more about Sen. Joseph Lieberman, Wednesday's featured speaker, and the implication of choosing a Jewish running mate? Check out sites for the Christian Broadcasting Network or a Jewish news weekly such as the Forward.

For the serious political junkie, C-SPAN's TV channel and Web site offer one-stop shopping for all the speeches, gavel to gavel.

Such narrowcasting began with cable TV and its array of news, sports and other specialty channels. Cable systems can accommodate dozens of channels, but the Net can handle millions and offer targeted programming not practical in any other medium.

Still, many of the specialty sites offer little more than newspaper-like articles and editorials, some of them days old. Other sites had audio commentary, but not the video or depth available on TV or at mainstream Web sites.

On Wednesday, ABC, CBS and NBC began live coverage at 10 p.m. EDT, all broadcasting Lieberman's 30-minute speech in its entirety.

After Gore's daughter, Karenna Gore Schiff, wrapped up, she was joined on the podium by a ``surprise'' visitor, her father. ABC, CBS and NBC stayed with the coverage for several minutes past their designated signoff time of 11 p.m. EDT to capture the scene.

Compared with specialty sites, mainstream organizations cover the convention more broadly — featuring protests, lobbyists and other happenings. And, backed up by large news organizations, they are generally more current.

For example, the Baltimore Jewish Times is posting dispatches from a Jewish convention delegate, Samuel I. Rosenberg. But Wednesday's column was on the Kennedys, the previous evening's speakers.

At Beliefnet, columnist Debra Dickerson discusses Lieberman's record on civil rights, while Bishop John Shelby Spong speaks about Lieberman's ability to promote family values in a way the religious right cannot.

The National Review and talk show host Rush Limbaugh offer the conservative perspective on Lieberman and other convention speakers. For a liberal voice, punk rock rebel Johnny Rotten hosts a nightly show at eYada.com.

Women.com highlights female speakers and politicians and interviewed Gore about his mother's influence. Terra.com collects stories related to Hispanics. NetNoir and Black Entertainment Television provide similar coverage for blacks.

MTV offers stories from youths' perspective, while Wired magazine's site has features with a high-tech twist.

Alan Schroeder, a journalism professor at Northeastern University in Boston, likens the choices to ``the feeling you get pushing a shopping cart down a cereal aisle and realizing there's every conceivable product.''

Some analysts worry that Internet narrowcasting will fragment the country, letting Americans hear what they want to hear and ignore other viewpoints.

``Everybody's got their own little corner,'' said Robert Drake, a political science professor at Baldwin-Wallace College in Berea, Ohio.

Paul Janensch, a communications professor at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn., said broadcasters give Americans a common base of knowledge that they can then discuss near the water cooler.

``We will really miss something if we don't have all Americans experiencing the same ritual,'' he said. ``It will lead to a further alienation of the public toward government.''

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On the Net:

Beliefnet: http://belief.net

Christian Broadcasting Network: http://cbn.com

Jewish Times: http://www.jewishtimes.com

The Forward: http://www.forward.com

Online magazine on vice presidents: http://vicepresidents.com

C-SPAN: http://c-span.org