CONTACT: Stanford University News Service (415) 723-2558
STANFORD STUDENTS PIONEERING ANIMATED NEWSPAPER
STANFORD -- In the cluttered newsroom of the Stanford Daily, college students are working on the newspaper of the 21st century.
Using borrowed Apple computers and software, Daily staffers are putting together a computerized supplement to their college paper - complete with text, sound and moving graphics - that will be delivered throughout the campus via SUNet, the university's communications network.
"We've all been working on this in our free time, just because the technology is so incredible," said senior June Cohen, news projects editor. "As far as I know, there hasn't been any other publication distributed for free over a network like this. This is a test community."
The students became interested in the project last fall, after Stanford staff member Scott Kirk told them about Apple Computer's new "QuickTime" capabilities. The software architecture allows video clips and animation to be combined into the same document as text and graphics.
When they wrote to Apple indicating their interest, the company let the Daily borrow three Apple Macintosh IIfx personal computers. Video digitizing boards and other tools were donated by RasterOps, Claris and Vividus.
"Stanford MediaLink," as the publication is tentatively titled, will have a format much like a Sunday magazine version of the Daily. Science stories will be illustrated with rotating models on the screen; profile stories will show university administrators actually talking, instead of simple mug shots.
A story on African and Caribbean dance classes will feature the sounds and sights of drummers interacting with the dancers. Another piece, on Stanford Olympic athletes, will show track stars racing, as the text scrolls by.
"This is the perfect marriage of print and broadcast news," said Cohen, a political science major. "Network news is too often sound-bite oriented - the stories don't delve very deeply. This provides the immediacy of video, along with in-depth printed news stories. There are no space restrictions on the text."
Stanford students who want to view the "newspaper" will be able to call it up from any high-end Macintosh, from the Classic II on up, that is linked to the campus network. Readers will be presented with a table of contents, from which they can transfer one or two stories at a time onto their own computers.
Once the stories have been transferred (the process takes three to five minutes - "that's the down side," Cohen said), readers can replay, freeze, copy, cut and paste, or just trash them and go back to the computer network for more stories. Different versions of the publication will be produced for color and black-and-white screens.
Although the video images are not as sharp as television, "they're pretty good," Cohen said.
Daily staffers hope to have the first edition of "MediaLink" completed by the end of this academic year. Although they plan to run an article in the regular Daily and post some flyers about it near student computing centers, they are hoping that once students see it, the best advertising will be by word-of-mouth.
"The most exciting aspect of the project is that the technology is so new," Cohen said. "No one knows just what can be done with it yet. And there's a good chance people will be watching us to see where we take it."
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