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An Internet handbook for editors & writers.

WRITERS.NET:

Every Writer's Essential Guide to Online Resources and Opportunities

Gary Gach, 1997

Prima Publishing, Rockling, Calif.

ISBN 0-7615-0641-1

My initial thought was that this book's catchy title probably reached far beyond what its content would deliver.

After all, many other books with similar rifles have aimed at the same broad target and fallen short. The most notable of these is Randy Reddick's and Elliot King's Online Journalist: Using the Internet and Other Electronic Resources which provides a general description of Internet structure but leaves the task of actually figuring out where to go and what to do on the Net up to the reader.

Writers,Net, on the other hand, really does deliver what its title promises. Its 374 pages are packed with dense, comprehensive information. Combining the attributes of both a road map and "how to" guide, the book shows the reader where to go on the Internet to get specific kinds of information needed for writerly pursuits.

Main Stream Journalism

While it focuses on "writers" in a broad fashion that includes some sections of Web resources for fiction and screen writers, the book's overall emphasis is on mainstream journalism.

Author Gary Gach has solid credentials in the field. The former editor-in-chief of the cable TV industry's CV Guide has previously written The Pocket Guide to the Internet and also developed the "Internet for Writers" curriculum at the University of California, Berkeley Extension.

Which is not to say Writers. Net is without flaw. For instance, in a chapter entitled "Net Journalism," the 1997 book inexplicably uses outdated 1995 statistics about the numbers of newspapers that have launched online ventures. Other areas appear to have been hastily updated just before the press run, like that involving the San Jose Mercury Center's 1996 "Dark Alliance" Web publishing project that turned into a journalistic debacle.

Originally intending to cite the Mercury Center project as an example of the new sorts of journalism made possible by the Web, Gach opens a section by lauding the 1996 Cocaine and CIA series as "a bold stroke" that "broke new ground," and then goes on to close with awkward qualifications such as "it's well beyond the scope of this book to debate whether 'Dark Alliance' advances any significant new material or how circumstantial it may prove to be."

But such shortcomings are few in number and minor in effect on Gach's otherwise impressive work.

URL listings

One of its most useful features is the detailed URL listing that accompanies every narrative section about various categories of Web resources. Here, for instance, one can learn about obscure resources like the Canadian Broadcasting Company's Journalists & Broadcasters Resources site, the Makulowich site that provides step-by-step online tutorials in Internet research technique, or the Reporters Internet Guide (RIG) site at which one can download a constantly updated list of Web resources cataloged by news beat--entertainment, business, labor, crime, etc.

Beyond just research tools, Gach provides an indepth overview of the general landscape of Internet freelance sales opportunities for writers and business opportunities for small publishers. Here, one can learn such fundamental facts as, say, the important differences between E-Zines and Web-Zines. There are also detailed explanations of how individual writers have used the Web to publish and promote their work and reputations, building successful online literary business ventures, attracting advertisers, subscribers and steady income.

One related chapter has "case studies" that include the histories of the people, companies, events and trends that led to the creation of many now-famous Web publications like Slate, Salon, Word and Utne Lens. These are valuable factual backgrounders for anyone writing about Internet communications, as well as for anyone trying to develop a context in which to understand the latest Web publishing trends.

New Net Realities

The book repeatedly underscores the need for mainstream publishers and individual journalists to adjust their views and working habits to the new marketplace realities wrought by the Internet. For instance, one entire chapter explores authors' e-rights--the hotly contested issue of exactly what legal rights writers have, or should have, over the re-publication of their original works in databases and other Web-based electronic distribution systems.

Overall, Writers. Net is well suited as a daily Internet handbook for professional writers who need to know exactly how to harness the many (but often confusing) resources of the global network to the task of practical journalistic research. And, as online concerns continue to impinge on every area of news publishing, this utilitarian book, with its encyclopedic scope, extensive index and user-friendly organization, is destined to become as well-thumbed as any editor's or journalist's thesaurus or Associated Press Stylebook.
COPYRIGHT 1997 Duncan McIntosh Company, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1997 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:mediainfo.com: Journal of the Online News Industry
Author:Levins, Hoag
Publication:Editor & Publisher
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 20, 1997
Words:767
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