Press Archive

SDSC Partner, Foundation for American Communications, Plans International Expansion for FACSNET Service

Published 11/18/1996

San Diego, CA - An Internet-based information service launched for journalists six months ago is now going global. FACSNET, a creation of FACS (Foundation for American Communications) and the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) responds to 4,000 registered users making 50,000 requests for information per month. Growing numbers of international journalists using the site have inspired plans for a European version of the Web service.

Initially created through the combined efforts of journalists, scholars, and programmers at The Detroit News, SDSC, and FACS, FACSNET's list of media sponsors has since grown to include Media General, The Detroit News, Gannett, Hearst Newspapers, Cox Newspapers, the Chicago Tribune, Scripps Howard, A.H. Belo Company, the Los Angeles Times, NBC, CNN, The Arizona Republic/Phoenix Newspapers, and The Dallas Morning News.

"With the growing complexity of public policy and science issues, journalists need the knowledge and resources to understand and report them accurately," said Jack Cox, president and CEO of FACS, which is a member of SDSC's industrial partners program. "FACSNET harnesses the Internet to provide new tools for tackling these stories while educating reporters in economics, science, history, and law."

FACSNET was developed to help journalists quickly acquire the information and understanding they need to make sense of complex public policy issues and to serve as a link to Internet sources of information. In addition to hosting the FACSNET site, SDSC is providing expertise in database design, site management, and integration with the Web.

"Informing the public on complex issues, so we can all make the best decisions about the future, is what this is all about," said Steve Napear, director of SDSC's industrial partners program. "Partnering SDSC's information technology expertise with the FACS organization's unique journalism scholarship has already produced outstanding results. We hope to continue this partnership well into the future."

For 20 years, FACS has provided mid-career, graduate-level education to mroe than 9,000 journalists who report on the more complex issues of public importance. The programs are taught by the FACS faculty of top scholars and experts focusing primarily in science, economics, and law. The FACSNET site reflects the long tradition of academic excellence and journalistic independence from FACS's faculty and staff.

Original content at the site has been provided by practicing journalists and FACS faculty and scholars. For example, Vic Cohn, former science editor for The Washington Post, has served as editor for a section instructing journalists how to address statistical and "scientific" assertions. The American Statistical Association provided the site with a listing of dozens of experts available on-line for journalists.

"Because Web-based resources are by their very nature global and because the discussion lists frequented by journalists have a diverse membership, the site was conceived from the beginning as a global resource," said Randy Reddick, the editor and director of FACSNET. "Interest from journalists in the United Kingdom and Europe has been so keen that we are developing a European-focused version of the site."

Reddick is a former associate professor of mass communications at Texas Tech University and author of several books on using the Internet, including "The Online Journalist." In creating the SDSC site, Reddick built upon the work of staff at The Detroit News who completed preliminary design on the service and site last year.

The site, at http://www.facsnet.org, is organized into sections on top issues, reporting tools, Internet resources, and online sources. A fifth section offers information about FACS and the FACSNET service. Information contained at the site is searchable within sections or across the site, and the FACSNET server creates HTML markup as a result of queries from users.

The FACSNET AP news digest in Top Issues section, provides links for on-line resources tied to the top stories of the day. this is an innovative partnership between FACSNET and the Associated Press. The section also enables journalists to launch a global search of the entire FACSNET site for resources.

The Reporting Tools section provides background material for understanding complex issues in the news involving economics, science, politics, and law. It also provides guidance for journalists on how to use the Internet.

The Internet Resources section provides links to other sites, all of which are annotated with identification of the site's sponsor and description of the site's content. A browsing selector here permits restricting the results to specific countries and even states.

In the Sources Online section, journalists will find e-mail and telephone access to experts on many complicated issues. Experts from the private sector, academic institutions, and government are identified, along with their affiliations and credentials. When the name of an expert has been submitted by a paying sponsor of FACSNET, that is reported.

SDSC, a national laboratory for computational science and engineering, is sponsored by NSF, other federal agencies, the State and University of California, and private organizations; is affiliated with the University of California, San Diego; and is administered by General Atomics. For more information, see http://www.sdsc.edu or contact Ann Redelfs, SDSC, redelfs@sdsc.edu, 619-534-5032.


For more information, contact:
Ann Redelfs, SDSC
619-534-5032/5113 (fax)
redelfs@sdsc.edu