Research Says Readers Want News `Menus'

TO recapture younger readers, front pages need to be more a menu of the day's news rather than a showcase for top stories, and coverage needs to be briefer, a newspaper researcher says.

``It is time to get rid of some sacred cows,'' Kristin McGrath, president of MORI Research, said in a panel discussion April 26 at the annual convention of the Newspaper Association of America (NAA).

Ms. McGrath studied attitudes of people aged 25 to 44 who demographically ought to be loyal readers but read newspapers no more than three days a week.

As part of the study, 15 newspapers designed new prototype sections aimed specifically at young readers. Adults in the study then told editors and researchers what they liked and disliked.

The most successful ideas will be tested this summer at six newspapers, and a report will be issued about their performance, said Gregory Favre, executive editor of The Sacramento Bee, which participated in the research.

``Too often we look for formulas and try our best not to be different, even if being different works,'' Mr. Favre explained.

Other participants in the panel discussion were Sandra Mims Rowe, executive editor of The Oregonian in Portland, and Richard Cheverton, managing editor of planning and strategy for The Orange County Register in California.

Young adults said they found most news repetitive and irrelevant, according to McGrath. ``The same types of things always seem to be newsworthy - murders, disasters,'' she says. ``The cumulative effect ... is repetitiveness. Only the names and faces change. The news remains the same.''

She also says the traditional front-page format is a turnoff.

``[Potential readers] told us over and over again that they would like the front page to be a menu or guide to the day's paper rather than a place to showcase the top five or six stories,'' McGrath said.

Other findings suggest that reporters and editors should move away from presenting stories as if they were news to readers. In many cases, the news has been on radio or television by the time it gets into print.

McGrath also said printed news should be briefer, since time is at a premium for many young readers. Mixed in could be in-depth stories that give perspective and detail unavailable elsewhere. People ``want their news as either a quick bite or a very satisfying meal,'' she says. Author says US press overplays race

NEWSPAPERS should stop making race a matter of black and white, said Toni Morrison, the Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning author, at the NAA convention April 27.

Why mention ``racial differences when race makes no difference?'' Ms. Morrison asked.

American newspapers too often regard crime and poverty as black problems, she added. Morrison cited news accounts of black concerns over the arrival of Hispanic immigrants and the resulting battle for jobs. The real differences, she said, are class and language, not race, and whites were not in the equation.

Morrison said reporters frequently are trapped by the adage that there are two sides to every story.

``There are never just two sides,'' she said. The real information is ``in between.'' TV news comes to PCs

BUSINESS executives in the United States will be able to tap into Cable News Network reports by switching on their personal computers with a system to be tested by the network and computer chipmaker Intel Corp.

CNN and Santa Clara, Calif.-based Intel said April 25 that they would begin testing the service this month.

The service makes use of Intel's multicast video technology. In multicast, video signals are compressed and delivered to PCs via local area networks, or LANs. Intel said the technology does not require special computer monitors or decompression hardware. The tests will involve programming from CNN and Headline News.

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