Friday, November 27th, 1998

Every time I look at (that’s look at, not buy) a copy of the Sunday Journal-Constitution—a massive bundle of ads wrapped in and around a minuscule news hole, I think of the hilltops I’ve seen in the Pacific Northwest, stripped of trees. Stripped for…what? Twelve pages of department store ads? For lame coupons? For the thoughts of Jim Wooten?

To tell you the truth, even with all the romance I’ve always had for newspapers—these days, the thought of that much forest being consumed to crank out something so overblown and obsolete as the average daily paper makes me sick.

Yes, I do know that newsprint makes for a convenient package (gee, not unlike the one you’re holding now), and try as they might, our pioneers of technology haven’t quite made the breakthroughs yet that will make digital paper a reality—but call me an optimistic techno-dude: it’ll happen some day. We will have the clarity and immediacy of internet news with the convenience and ease of use that ink on dried, flattened wood pulp has offered since Gutenberg’s day.

But somewhere between now and then, the Journal-Constitution has to do something to beef up its web site, which is really a page that zaps you to That redirection happens because the AJC’s web site (and WSB’s and the rest of the Cox empire) are under the aegis of Cox Interactive Media, and I must say that they don’t do a bad job with creating a generally useable package here and in several other cities.

But my beef is that the content they’re working with, in the case of the AJC, is rather thin indeed. Instead of giving us most, if not all of the printed paper’s news (like the dotcom versions of the Washington Post and the New York Times), we get an online mutant thing that has selected stories from the paper, and a hard-to-find page (it’s ‘news@tlanta’, if you’re lost) containing news summaries, only a few of which link to longer versions of the story. As if to make up for that, they include bizarre features like ‘Vixana’ and an ‘alt.frontpage’ that are mercifully left out of the print edition. The former is apparently a gabby twentysomething partier-about-town who sprinkles phrases like n’est-ce-pas every paragraph or two to impress someone in her immediate family. Recently she wrote about attending one of the recent functions for—you guessed it—Tom Wolfe. Perhaps these confections are designed to capture a younger demographic than the print paper, just as an increasing number of papers create hipper versions of their home editions for sale on the street. Feel targeted?

The rest of the site is taken up with instant polls, news-you-can-use filler, a bunch of ads, and a more than a few annoying animated GIFs.

I’m not saying junk the whole thing—just pump up the content—fire up that mighty repurposing engine, so I don’t have to kill any more trees to keep up with what’s happening in our town. It’s such a delight to be able to connect to great reporting from places as far-flung as New York, Washington, San Jose, London, and Toronto each and every day. I’d like to make a worthwhile part of my morning surf, too.