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U.Va. Students Launch On-line News Source That May Be Forerunner Of New Journalism

February 11, 1999 -- University of Virginia students are packaging, presenting -- and making -- news by creating an on-line news magazine.

Frustrated by a lack of information about journalism, a group of U.Va. students last year started an electronic network to share information about the field. Offering tips on internships, speakers, seminars and jobs, the Journalism Information Network rapidly grew in popularity and usefulness.

Noting that more than 300 people were regularly accessing the e-mail network, organizers decided to create ways that students could gain experience in journalism. They established three committees: a networking committee that collects and distributes internship and job information, a speakers committee that brings notables in the field to U.Va., and the Angle, an on-line news magazine launched in December.

Affiliated with washingtonpost.com, the on-line version of the Washington Post, the Angle presents news packaged with interactive tables, moving images and links to related sites. Staffed by more than 20 writers, eight editors and several Web graphic designers, the Angle looks much like an electronic newspaper, but it has a distinctive feature. The site offers one main issue addressed from several different angles in the news, sports, business, style and health sections.

With its color images and inviting graphics, the Angle is delivering news in such a novel way that the students' professors are taking notice.

"We're looking at the future of journalism," predicted William H. Fishback, a senior lecturer who teaches news writing. "The students are using technology to stimulate new interest in the news. The technology will likely bring in a new generation of readers."

Students plan to post a new Angle (located at http://www.theangle.com/) monthly during the academic year. The premiere issue, representing the work of about 35 students, focused on Charlottesville crime in its news section. It offered an article describing assaults that occurred in the University area last fall. Another article described measures students were taking to protect themselves, and a third article offered a first-person account of being assaulted.

The next issue of the Angle, due to go on-line Feb. 15, will address several topics, including corporate sponsorship of college athletics and spring break trip scams. The business section will feature an interview with John Griffin, a U.Va. grad who is a hedge fund manager, and an article on distance learning and teleconferencing based on a class that Griffin is teaching from New York to U.Va.'s McIntire School of Commerce.

"We hope to provide deeper coverage and analysis of topics of interest to U.Va. students and college students in general," said Anna Robertson, a third-year student majoring in English history and American studies who started the Journalism Information Network. "By using graphics and other visually entertaining elements, we hope readers will enjoy reading news in a more interactive manner."

"The Angle is a unique product among college news Web sites," said Jim Sheppard, managing editor of washingtonpost.com. "Anna is one of the most talented young journalists I've worked with in years. She blends all the traditional journalism skills with solid thinking about how to present factual, balanced news in the fast-paced, interactive medium of the Web."

Although Robertson is the moving force behind the network's creation, she is quick to give credit to other students. Noting the creation of the Angle and a fall event that brought well-known journalists to U.Va., Robertson said, "Such efforts are the proof of the talent and hard work of U.Va. students. They are willing to create a new organization from scratch and to start their own opportunities for a career-oriented activity."

"In under a year the 400 members of the Journalism Information Network have essentially created the functions of an informal journalism program at a large university that has no formal journalism school. In my opinion, this is better than attending a school with an institutionalized journalism program because we get the advantages of a liberal arts education, access to speakers and hands-on experience that journalists need," said

Robertson, who has held several internships at such places as the CBS Evening News and ABCNews.com. Robertson, who attended the same Arlington high school as Katie Couric, also credits her teachers John Sullivan and William Fishback for giving her the inspiration to create the network. As the effort has expanded, it has received financial support from Vice President of Student Affairs William W. Harmon.

Fishback has no doubts that Robertson will enjoy success in journalism. "I don't think she'll follow in Katie Couric's footsteps," he said. "But in 10 years, Katie Couric's boss might be Anna Robertson."

Contact: Ida Lee Wooten, (804) 924-6857.

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: please contact the Office of University Relations at (804) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (804) 924-7550.
SOURCE: U.Va. News Services

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