Below is the Arizona Daily Star's front page story announcing StarNet's birth as a website 19 years ago today. Thanks everyone for reading us each day and to the many of you who have read StarNet from the very start.
Debbie Kornmiller, senior editor
StarNet rooted in new vision; To link citizenry in on-line forum
Robert S. Cauthorn
Publication Date: May 5, 1995 Page: 1A Section: NEWS Edition: fri
Today's launch of StarNet, the electronic edition of The Arizona Daily Star, marks what we hope is an important evolutionary step, both in the life of this newspaper and the community at large.
StarNet is such an ambitious project that it has attracted attention from across the country. In large measure this is because StarNet attempts to extend the news gathering role in meaningful ways. However, just as big a part of the vision of StarNet stems from its plans to help people interact in ways never tried before.
One hundred years ago, the local newspaper's office was in the center of town. When the front page came off the press it was placed in the window and people would gather around to read the news and comment on it. Also a hundred years ago, we were closer to our neighbors. We knew their views and interests and could easily find our natural peer group.
In a poignant irony, StarNet uses high-tech means to return to small town values. There's a real beauty in that.
So what is StarNet? It is access to the Internet for starters. We provide full SLIP and PPP connections to the Internet, which allows subscribers to use point-and-click tools to navigate the "network of networks."
It also allows subscribers to read the full Associated Press and Scripps Howard news wire feeds, as well as large portions of the Knight-Ridder wire. When a breaking story hits, you can watch it unfold, take by take. We also have, at last count, almost 100 additional columns and features that will appear soon. In addition, over the next few days, you will be able to conduct full-text searches of the wire.
One of the things we hear often is people complaining that we don't have enough of the particular kinds of news THEY care about. Well, no more. On StarNet, in a few weeks, you'll be able to automatically search all incoming news sources, even when you're not on the system. Then when you next log in, you'll have your own edition of the Daily Me.
StarNet also features the full text - searchable - of slightly more than four years of the Star. This means a newcomer to town can get necessary background on people here. Or a business person can check for stories about a client before making a call. Or you can just look up an older album or movie review.
Access to vast amounts of information is nice, but StarNet attempts to do much more. StarNet's editor, Walt Nett, and his staff spend each day building "news links" to external sources of information on our local stories. Sometimes this will mean that for a story about a new report on Central Arizona Project water, we'll have the full text of the report available. More often, though, we take you on a daily cruise of the Internet.
The goal of the news links is to transform our role as a newspaper in the Information Age. Just as our reporters scour the city looking for news we think is important, StarNet scours the length of the Internet to find additional information for you. We liken it to a 3-D newspaper, which you can open as far as you want. Our goal, admittedly not met yet but attainable, is to have almost all the stories in the paper pointing to additional sources.
Importantly, many of these links take people directly into discussion groups where people can share their views with one another. The groups might be local to the StarNet server or global in scope.
And it is here where StarNet turns to its other mission - to provide a sense of locality on the Internet. We hope that the StarNet discussion groups will allow people to connect with one another around shared interests and concerns. For many years, the news and newspapers have sparked discussion in a community; now we hope to give it a focal point as well.
We have created a number of discussion groups already, based generally on the daily news sections. But this is a user-driven feature. If people feel the need for a group, we'll set it up. Specifically, non-profit organizations or clubs can set up a free presence on the Internet through StarNet. They can create pages on the World Wide Web or have their own discussion forum.
This opens tantalizing possibilities. Neighborhood associations can post information about road closures that affect them; church groups can announce concerts or retreats. StarNet allows us to get back into the business of publishing all those kinds of "pancake-social" type news that we can't print on expensive newsprint. For a long time, we've mourned the passing of this kind of news, because it may be small but it's important to the life of a community. Again, StarNet provides a high-tech means to return to small-town newspaper values.
Also, by structuring the project as we have, we are distributing some of the publishing power in this news medium. On StarNet you can read about a City Council meeting, a Wildcat game, a movie review and instantly go to a forum to post your own reactions. It promises to be a vibrant place as it grows.
And grow it will. The StarNet that debuts today will not be the StarNet that will be in a few weeks. There's still a fair amount of digital construction dust around. Not all the features are in place and won't be for a few weeks. In a sense, because it's subscriber driven StarNet will never really be done.
Upcoming projects include an aggressive education effort and a model for a form of commerce that is dazzling. Working with Aces Research, we have the ability to take high speed StarNet connections almost anywhere.
Over the next few days we'll run stories about specific people involved in StarNet. But every person in this newsroom and scores of people in Tucson Newspapers Inc. have been part of this team effort. Outside this operation we'd like to thank the University of Arizona's Karen Warren, who was giving of her time and insights. Warren also gathered together a crack group of people at the UA who advised us early on. We'd also like to thank Ehud Gavron of Aces Research who has gone above and beyond the call of duty. And while there have been so many people involved with this effort inside TNI, one stands out: Rob Wisner, who unflinchingly took on tasks far beyond the call of duty.
And me? Why am I writing this? Because it's my baby and I've been waiting a long time to write this piece.
StarNet: Steve Outing of Planetary News maintains a comprehensive list of weekly and daily newspapers on the Internet.