Media talk cyberspace at Internet symposium

by Brandt Parker

News Reporter

Media representatives from Houston newspapers and television and radio stations emphasized the importance of using the Internet to its full capacity at the Media and Internet Symposium held April 10 at the University of Houston.

Although Internet Business Centers reports that the Internet has 223,968 World Wide Web sites and serves an estimated 54 million people, Hamilton Masters, executive producer of KHOU-TV's morning news, said it is woefully under-utilized.

"I'm afraid that if we don't use the Internet fully, then we will have `information ghettoes' filled with people who don't know how to get to or use the information on the Internet," Masters said.

"Right now, the Internet is being used primarily as a public relations tool, offering sites that allow the public to become more familiar with our company," he said.

To expand that feature, KHOU-TV wants to become a producer of more Web-oriented material, such as video clips, scripts and real-time audio.

In addition, Scott Urquhart, director of creative services at 107.5 FM, has started Internet contests in conjunction with Incredible Universe appliance and electronic stores.

"We tell the listeners that we have a song list posted on the Internet that will tell them what our `Cash Song of the Day' is and on what hour it will be played," he said. Listeners can access the song list at home, work, school or at Incredible Universe. Urquhart said the contests increase the station's audience, the number of `Net users and the number of Incredible Universe customers.

Houston Chronicle Interactive has also made some changes to increase consumer involvement on the Internet, said Don Templet, marketing specialist for HCI.

"We now offer 80 percent of the text of the Houston Chronicle, including some stories that weren't printed in the paper," he said.

To further promote use of the `Net, the Houston Chronicle is equipping some of its reporting units with digital cameras, which allow HCI to file real-time reports on the Internet, Templet said.

More Chronicle reporters are submitting their daily stories on the Internet via File Transfer Protocol, an electronic filing system equipped with a large database, Templet said.

With the Houston Chronicle and other newspapers on the `Net, a concern for some may be: Is the Web a rehash of print?

Patrick Griggs, CEO of T1 Designs and former managing editor of Public News, says it is not. "Web sites incorporate more pictures, video and audio to jazz the site up," he said.

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