by A. Scott Moreau and Mike O’Rear
Getting news from the Web.
Want to see how Delhi views the latest White House scandal? Need to check out the weather forecast in Quito? What’s your supporting church in Idaho Falls reading in the local Post Register? Planning to start a new ministry in Harare? Does your church’s prayer group need to be more closely connected to the context in which its missionaries serve? What better way to stay on top of the local situation than reading the lead stories in the daily newspaper? It’s all becoming commonplace on the Web today.
To assist you in getting news from the Web, we have developed a news gateway site available at either www.gmi.org/research/news.htm or www.wheaton.edu/Missions/Moreau/News.htm. Both sites contain identical tables consisting of links to leading news sites (see page 337). To reach any of the sites on the table, simply place your pointer on the name and click. From time to time we edit the table, so when you access it, it may not look exactly like the table reproduced here. (You are free to copy and paste this table to your own Web site, editing it to fit your preferences.)
ITS A WHOLE NEW WORLD
A Luganda (Uganda) proverb says, “He who goes to the well himself does not drink muddy water.” Today, you need not rely on intermediaries to bring you the latest news from around the world; you can access thousands of newspapers directly from your computer. While you will not find the full text of most newspapers online, you often get the front page stories, headlines, and other major features.
We begin in our news gateway table with world news. We like the World News Index as the best starting place for daily news. You can get the top stories worldwide, or zoom in to a particular region or country to read leading national newspapers.
AJR News Link (American Journalism Review) is perhaps the most extensive news gateway, connecting to, at last count, 3,622 newspapers. You select by region, or enter the name of a paper into the search engine and AJR will try to find it. If you don’t know where to start, AJR offers a page of links to its Top 10 (rated best by users) and Top 50 (most often accessed by users) news sites.
For the World Christian who wants to stay abreast of the latest headlines, “Fast Sources” presents a list of the most frequently updated news sources on the Web. Every three to six minutes you can find the latest news and information from around the world on The Nando Times. Nando, which is available on the Web only, also makes available online its archives of the past 14 days of coverage.
Several world news services are especially adapted for online access. The Reuters international summary brought to you by Yahoo! is a good, quick overview. We like CNN’s world news, and MSNBC World also brings you excellent coverage. Habla Español?—the Spanish version of CNN—is available online, as well.
The latest Travel Warnings and Consular Information Sheets (giving location of U.S. Embassy, health conditions, political disturbances, unusual currency and entry regulations, security information, etc.) are available from the U.S. State Department for every country.
What about national or local news from specific sites? Again, for the major newspapers of most countries, the best place to start may be World News Index. From here, you select a continent, then a list of newspapers appears, sorted by country. Click on the name of the desired paper to go to its contents. Our gateway table gives links to the World News Index for each region, as well as links to some of the most popular papers in each region.
What about the smaller hometown papers? Literally thousands of local U.S. newspapers can be accessed via the Web. So, you can keep track of local weather, sports, business, and controversy in your hometown from anywhere. Select from NBC’s local news affiliates (MSNBC), or type your paper’s name into AJR News Link’s search engine.
If you are looking for a particular news item, many of the leading news sites have simple search engines; simply type in a word or phrase and the site willdisplay any articles that contain that word or phrase.
Linguistically challenged? Do you want to scan Folha de São Paulo (Brazil) but cannot read Portuguese? Do not despair: AltaVista’s translation service will give you a very “quick and dirty” machine translation of the text. Click on the “Translation” link in our gateway table, enter the URL (address) of the desired foreign language Web site, and specify the language in which you want the text to appear. It can currently translate between English and Spanish, Portuguese, German, Italian, and French.
Many Christian organizations, schools, mission agencies, churches, and denominations are beginning to publish regular newsletters and journals on the Web or via e-mail.1 Check with your favorite ministries to see what they offer.
ICLnet shows you dozens of Christian and missions news sources, agency newsletters, and magazines on the Web. Mission Network News gives a handful of daily written, as well as audio, missions news items (originally prepared as brief radio spots). Brigada Today, a weekly e-mail focused on mission efforts to unreached peoples, has perhaps the largest circulation of any e-mailed newsletter.
Christianity.Net provides a gateway to information from the Christianity Today, Inc., family of journals and news sources. Religion Today and Maranatha Christian Journal also provide news from an evangelical perspective.
Over 30 Christian magazines, including such popular ones as Christianity Today, Moody, Leadership, Discipleship Journal and Today’s Christian Woman are available from the Ecola site. (Some will also find interesting Ecola’s index to Islamic magazines.)
Religion News Service covers not just Christianity, but a broad array of “religion, ethics, spirituality and moral issues,” including an extensive “Religion Calendar.” It provides a daily news service, a weekly news report, and a photo and graphics service, at various fee levels. The entry in our gateway table provides a free preview of this service.
ASK YOUR FRIENDS
The Internet is famous for its thousands of electronic discussion groups (also called electronic forums, e-mail conferences, or newsgroups). While many are not strictly “news,” they can provide access to others around the world interested in the same topics you care about. Many discussion groups are open to the public (others are “by invitation only”), and most are free.
Discussion groups are a great place to ask questions. Simple instructions are sent for how to subscribe to the discussion group. Having subscribed, you can submit e-mail questions and comments to the group and receive responses.
The most complete secular gateway to Internet discussion groups is Deja News, where you can read, search, participate in, and subscribe to more than 50,000 newsgroups. An incredibly useful resource for getting information in a hurry and finding people with similar interests, Deja News also archives and searches more than two and a half years of newsgroup postings. (A word of caution: Since most newsgroups are open to the public, you have the widest possible variety of topics, with an equally diverse set of people and opinions expressed, many of which are not friendly to the Christian faith.)
The best gateway sites we know of for evangelical missions discussion groups are MAFxc and Brigada.
PERSONALIZED DELIVERY SERVICE
Some online news services allow you to specify what kinds of news you want, which are then compiled from other online sources and delivered (“pushed”) to your computer on a regular basis.2 Probably the most well-known is PointCast, which is advertiser-supported, meaning you pay no fees but must accept advertising as part of the package. So is InfoBeat, which delivers news on topics you select at the times you’ve requested right to your e-mail box.
While most of the sources covered in this article are free, you can get higher quality news delivered to your computer via commercial offerings, for a price. Most allow you to specify precisely the criteria youwant. ClariNet provides the broadest up-to-the-minute news on the Internet, with more than 3,500 stories per day from major news wires, and updates around the clock.
The not-so-subtle downside of push services? Look out for how fast your hard disk gets filled up with news you don’t need.
THE LATEST TECHNOLOGY
Recent technological advances present ever more ways to get your news. RealAudio enables you to listen to your news, via your computer’s sound card and speakers. Several news sites on the Web, such as ABC News, Reuters, and National Public Radio, offer an audio version. (The required RealAudio software can be downloaded from most audio Web sites.)
Some sites are beginning to offer video news. Similar to audio, you first must download special software and then download the equivalent of television news to view on your own PC.
Then there’s AirMedia’s News-Catcher Internet Antenna. Plug this little piece of wireless technology into your computer’s serial port (no phone line needed) and you’ll receive Internet news feeds from their proprietary news network for $5.95 a month.
So what does all this mean for today’s missionary? You can stay as connected as you want to be—but only if you have access. More than ever, in this instant information age, the incredible advantages enjoyed by the technological haves become clear. Two-thirds of the global population, according to The Other Side, are still waiting to make their first telephone call.3 What many of us enjoy (and have come to expect) practically for free with a few clicks of the mouse is far beyond the reach of most people to whom and with whom we minister.
A second issue to face is the possibility of becoming too connected. One missionary to India recently told us that he chose not to bring his computer for his first term of service. The reason was simple but important: He knew his own limitations and wanted to ensure that he connected with the people before he brought a tool which might keep him too closely tied to his American home. His was a wise choice, one we might well consider if we find ourselves more interested in reading The Daily Nation (Kenya) from Japan than being with the people we have come to serve.
1. To access news on the Web, start your browser and go to the designated Web site. By contrast, to receive an e-mail newsletter, you “subscribe” once (usually by sending a simple e-mail request) and then the newsletter is automatically sent to your e-mail account each time it is published.
2. Push technology was pioneered using add-on software by PointCast and others, and will gain considerable impetus from its incorporation (in the guise of “channels”) in the latest versions of Microsoft Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator.
3. The Other Side, September-December 1997, issue, quoted in MARC Newsletter, March, 1998.
EMQ, Vol. 34, No. 3, pp. 336-341. Copyright © 1998 Evangelism and Missions Information Service (EMIS). All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMIS.