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<i></i> Puts Top Stories From 42 Countries Online - 2004-08-18

The Internet has in many ways revolutionized the news business. Reporters file stories online. Producers set up interviews via e-mail. And of course, many newspapers have websites where you can catch up on the news right from your computer. VOA's Art Chimes reports one website features not just one newspaper, but hundreds of them, or actually just their front pages, from all over the world.

"It's a unique resource. There's no place else in the world where you can go and see this," says Paul Sparrow the Executive Producer at the Newseum, the U.S.-based interactive museum of news.

Every day, visitors to can scan the front pages of several hundred newspapers, big and small, from Los Angeles to Hong Kong to Beirut. What may stand out to you is the sheer variety of what professional editors have decided are the most important stories of the day. Every so often one event may dominate the news, but on most days, says Mr. Sparrow, newspaper front pages offer a broad interpretation of the day's top news.

"There's no way you can look at all those front pages and say there is a media conspiracy, or they all say the same thing," he adds. "Because you'll see the same news event being covered in a number of different ways in different newspapers."

Some of the front pages are on view in a sidewalk display at the Newseum's future home here in Washington, but Paul Sparrow, the Newseum's executive producer, says the project really took off when the papers went online.

"We immediately saw a dramatic increase to the number of visitors to our website," he recalls. "And we also immediately saw an increase in the number of newspapers that wanted to be part of this project. We now average more than 300 newspapers a day, and it continues to grow."

On one recent day there were some 326 papers represented from 43 countries, mostly in North America, but also, for example, nine papers from Poland, three from South Korea, and two from Lebanon.

The Newseum's Paul Sparrow says the website is popular with news professionals, but also with news consumers.

"We have journalism professors all over the world who download these papers to use them as a teaching tool," he says. "We have professional journalists in newsrooms who download these papers to compare how their front-page coverage stacks up against their competitors. We have the general public who come on to see newspapers from maybe their home town while they're traveling or they want to see how a story is being covered in Israel or in England or in Turkey or in Japan."

According to Mr. Sparrow, a non-commercial organization like the Newseum is uniquely situated to have a feature like Today's Front Pages on its website.

"You don't make any money off of this, obviously, because it is labor intensive," he explains. "But we do think that it's a unique service, and it goes to our mission of helping the public better understand the news media."

One cautionary note: "Today's Front Pages" is very graphics-intensive, since what you are seeing is an image of the newspapers, not just the text. If you are using a dial-up modem, be prepared to wait a bit while the front-page images download. The website really is best viewed over a high-speed Internet connection.