New York, March 8 (Reuters): News junkies who watched the Gulf War unfold on CNN a little over a decade ago will have a new medium to satisfy their cravings in the event of another armed conflict with Iraq.
For the first time since the Internet became a fixture of American life, the stage has been set for a huge international story that could expose the strengths and weaknesses of the Web as a purveyor of breaking news.
The Internet as it is now known didn’t exist in 1991, when Iraq was driven out of Kuwait by allied forces.
Now as Washington prepares for another war with Baghdad, more than 68 million homes and millions of US businesses have access to the Web.
That will make the medium figure prominently in keeping Americans informed. Unlike the lightning-quick US military action in Afghanistan after the September 11 attacks, an Iraq conflict is expected to be the kind of news event that will lend itself to specialised coverage on the Web.
“The coverage of the war against terror in Afghanistan was fast, accurate, reliable and comprehensive, but it was relatively one-dimensional. This is going to be the first major conflict, if it happens, to be covered at the beginning of the broadband era,” said Mitch Gelman, CNN.com executive producer.
The Internet can provide more detailed coverage than traditional media because it allows sites to post complete documents, first-hand civilian accounts and, due to the growth of high-speed Internet, video on demand.
On the down side, many independent news operations on the Internet have slimmed down or disappeared altogether since the info-tech bubble burst in 1999. That might hurt the quality of online news coverage of another Gulf War, one expert said.
“There are fewer bodies, but it may also be that they can accomplish more because they have more tools,” said David Carlson, Cox/Palm Beach Post professor of New Media Journalism at the University of Florida in Gainesville.