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Readers discuss credibility gap between print, online news

By By LOURDES VAZQUEZ - LVazquez@VICAD.com
Oct. 20, 2009 at 5:20 a.m.
Updated Oct. 22, 2009 at 5:22 a.m.

About 65 people attended a town hall meeting at  the Univeristy of Houston-Victoria to discuss the future of journalism.

Survey results may be viewed online at www.VictoriaAdvocate.com/survey.

Readers also may take the survey online.

400 people were called randomly for the scientific survey.

People want to connect online, but so-called trolls can scare them away from news sites.

This dilemma was one of many discussed by Victoria Advocate readers at a town hall meeting Tuesday night at the University of Houston-Victoria.

"My concern in this situation in jumping into the online forums on your Web site is that it's not the easiest, because it has hostile points," said Cory Garcia of Victoria. "You're getting a lot of yelling, not a lot of exchanging of the ideas."

He likes the idea of being able to go online to blog and that the Advocate promotes it as a way of communicating.

The Advocate organized the event to discuss the findings of a recent survey about the credibility of online journalism. The newspaper joined the Associated Press Managing Editors Credibility Project to conduct the survey.

Macarena Hernandez, UHV professor of humanities, moderated the event, taking questions and comments from the audience.

According to the survey conducted by the University of Missouri and UHV, people found the print and online editions of the newspaper about equally trustworthy.

However, one in five also said they trust the print edition more than online. The Advocate's goal is to be sure its 164-year tradition of trust from its community transfers to its Web site as well, Editor Chris Cobler said.

Melissa Roth of Victoria said she wanted to see more national stories localized.

Cobler responded that local news is the paper's top priority. The digital world offers new ways for the newspaper to find those local connections to national stories, he said. For example, readers can now post information through Twitter or interact with editors during their news meetings broadcast live online at 10 a.m. weekdays, he said.

Allyson Griffith, a UHV student, asked Cobler if the Advocate would charge for using the Web site.

Most newspapers in the country are considering that question, and many probably will move in that direction, Cobler said. The Advocate is considering such a step, he said.

Another audience member, Russell Sitka asked, "Is there a difference in what is in print than online?"

The Advocate's Web site stresses interactivity, immediacy and multimedia, which makes it different from the newspaper, Cobler said. However, a replica of the print edition also is available on the Web site.

Other attendees expressed concern regarding additional coverage in their counties.

Russell Cain said that, although he enjoys the coverage the Advocate gives Calhoun County, he would like to see a more permanent reporter in the area.

Cobler explained the newspaper uses five ranging reporters to travel from Victoria to cover the surrounding counties. These reporters use digital cameras and laptops to report in the field where the Advocate's readers live, he said.

Cobler closed the event by encouraging everyone to keep suggesting ideas for improving the newspaper and its Web site.

"We hope this is a starting point for the discussion," he said.

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