[Cybertalk logo] Copyright (c) 1995 by Timothy C. Barmann. This article is intended for personal viewing only and may not be re-distributed in any form. Please e-mail link requests.

November 26, 1995

Brown newspaper
succeeds on the Web

By Timothy C. Barmann

PROVIDENCE -- As the sun rose one Monday morning last March, four bleary-eyed Brown University students emerged from the offices of the Brown Daily Herald, where they had been working all night.

They headed to a nearby campus computer lab with a handful of disks, which held the culmination of their nocturnal effort _ the first ``official'' edition of HeraldSphere, the online version of the student newspaper.

Herald editors had experimented with a World Wide Web page the previous month, posting some of their articles. But this was the day of their ``full Web rollout'' _ everything published in that day's Herald, plus a few extras, was to go online.

With a slight pang of worry that it might not work, the students ``uploaded'' the stories and artwork on their disks from the Brown computer lab to another computer connected to the Internet.

After some small kinks were ironed out, it worked.

The payoff was nearly instantaneous, recalled Marshall Miller, executive editor of the newspaper and one of the four students at the computer lab. Since they had already advertised on the Internet their Web site's opening, people from around the country came to visit the site almost immediately.

``It was amazing,'' said the Brown senior.

That was the genesis of HeraldSphere, which has, in its few months of existence, attracted recogition as one of the top on-line college newspaper sites in the country.

September's NetGuide magazine praised the Web site. And U. Magazine, a national college publication, listed HeraldSphere among 12 ``must-see'' college publications on the Internet.

Much of HeraldSphere's success can be attributed to its content. All the stories, photographs and even comic strips published daily in the Brown Daily Herald are found here, presented in an easy-to-use fashion.

Readers also can search through back issues or examine an extensive archive of past Herald articles on the ``Title IX'' gender discrimination in athletics lawsuit currently pending against Brown University.

There's also ``Good Clean Fun,'' the Herald's weekly entertainment magazine. And oddly, in the ``Pleasure Dome'' section, you'll find a collection of articles about Brown University President Vartan Gregorian.

Brown senior Lockhart Steele, who is also an executive editor at the Herald, said the paper took to the Web to reach beyond campus boundaries. The undergraduate editors, he said, thought it was important to give parents, alumni and others outside the Brown community a student perspective on events at the university, without the filter of the college administration.

While it's difficult to accurately count how many visitors HeraldSphere gets, the editors estimate there are at least 2,000 every week, half from off campus. Some come from other parts of the world.

``That's really exciting for the staff,'' Steele said. ``One of the most fulfilling parts of it is that someone beyond Brown might be checking out your drawing or your story or your photograph.''

The day-to-day operation of HeraldSphere is not nearly dramatic as that first day last winter, as I saw recently in the newsroom of the Brown Daily Herald, housed in a leased university building.

The online version of the paper is assembled at the same time stories are edited with desktop publishing software on Macintosh computers. A computer program written by HeraldSphere editor Brian Fisk helps automate the conversion of stories into the format used on World Wide Web pages.

About 150 volunteers contribute to the Herald in various capacities. A half-dozen of those students work primarily on HeraldSphere.

By about 2 a.m., the process is usually complete, some six hours before the paper version is printed.

Miller said that HeraldSphere owes its existence in large part to a unique student organization on campus called NetSpace. That group, which offers inexpensive Internet services to the Brown community, provides the Herald with computer disk space, a live Internet connection and the technical expertise needed to run a Web site.

The Herald pays NetSpace $200 a year, less than the cost of printing one day's worth of the paper version ($312).

While on-line delivery is clearly more cost-effective, Miller said that HeraldSphere is not going to replace the traditional printed version of the Brown Daily Herald.

The newspaper still has a mission to communicate with all students, not just the `` `Netscape-savvy' elite,'' he said, refering to the popular program used to see Web pages on the Internet. ``I think it's important to have a readership that can still pick us up everyday in the dining halls.''

Steele said they've received lots of feedback, mostly positive, from parents of students, alumni and others. And of course the day they mistakenly put ``Thursday'' on Monday's edition, they heard about that too.

After recounting the oversight that Monday, Steele asked, ``Tomorrow is Tuesday, isn't it?''

Getting there: Anyone with access to the Internet's World Wide Web can see HeraldSphere for free. Its address is http://www.netspace.org/herald/. For links to the other top college sites picked by U. Magazine, go to http://www.umagazine.com/u/surfin/college.html.

Computer calendar

Thursday -- AS220's resident computer group will hold a free workshop, ``Introduction to the World Wide Web.'' It will include a live demonstration and various AS220 Web projects. The workshop is at AS220, 115 Empire St., Providence, at 7 p.m. For more information, call 831-9327 or send e-mail to as220@ids.net.

Thursday -- BusinessOn, a Warwick Internet access provider, is holding a weekly workshop for companies looking for answers about getting on the Internet. Topics to be discussed are ISDN and leased-line options and starting a Web site. Cost: $10 per person or $15 per company, up to three people. A workshop can be held at your business for free if you have more than three people. The workshops are limited to 10 people. Call 941-9795 for reservations and more information. Location: 1808 Elmwood Avenue, Warwick. Time: 1 p.m.

Thursday -- The Ocean State Internet Society will meet at 7 p.m. at the Weaver Public Library, Grove Ave., in East Providence, topic to be announced. General question and answer session is at 6:30. For more information, send e-mail to osis@osfn.rhilinet.gov, or call 435-8083, box 2. Cost: free.

Timothy C. Barmann is a Journal-Bulletin staff photographer. His column runs every other Sunday on the On Line page. Send him comments via e-mail at tim@cybertalk.com or U.S. mail, c/o the Journal-Bulletin, 75 Fountain St., Providence, R.I. 02902.