Local News Online 24/7 is a myth
So you got home too late to catch the 6:00 news and you want to know what happened in Kentucky today. This is the 21st century. No need to wait till 11. You log on.
Unfortunately, the various options for online local news yield about what you'd expect: same crap, different medium.
The value of the web as an alternative (or addition) to a news outfit's standard format is the ability to expand upon a story, provide additional data for which there wasn't space in the newscast or newspaper, and provide links to related sites.
Instead, the various local news outfits seem to have adopted the environmentally friendly credo of "reduce, reuse, and recycle."
The potential of the medium isn't lived up to by any of the local sites, and for some, the content barely justifies the cost of the domain name registration. Doing the bare minimum is almost worse than doing nothing at all.
WKYT (www.wkyt.com) gets the awards for most annoying blinking advertising banners and longest download time. While the page provides useful links to sites like the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government's traffic information site, the local news stories provide no more information than the short stories filed in the newscasts. WKYT's local content is dominated by the frame of the national CBS News site.
Timeliness is a must for any website (let alone a site that purports to deliver news), and some sections of WKYT's page are woefully out of date. "Kentucky Schools with Angie Ricono" (sounds like a talk show) hasn't been updated in months. Given that some fairly significant events have occurred in the schools over the last month (e.g., the meningitis scare in Floyd County and the selection of a new school superintendent in Fayette County), it's ridiculous to see obsolete stories from four months ago on the site.
WLEX (www.wlextv.com), like its across-the-street rival, is also crowded with advertising, and also framed by the NBC News national site. The news briefs are indeed brief, just as with WKYT. What's worse, the news is regionalized, covering Lexington and Louisville. If you click on any menu item other than "Local" (which is limited to one page, with 8 to 10 brief stories from Lexington and Louisville, and a brief sports note or two) you're getting news from the NBC/MSNBC juggernaut.
The one TV news outlet that seems to get it is WTVQ, which has recently added a feature to their newscasts called VN+. It's a symbol that appears on the screen during certain stories. If you go to their website www.wtvq.com, you find streaming video of the complete story as aired (including intro by the anchor), as well as additional text, links to related web pages, and the ability to e-mail the story to a friend. While the video is admittedly choppy, and the additional text not particularly extensive, the links to other pages and added information is a welcome recognition of the ability of the web to expand upon their two minute stories.
Some of the stories on WTVQ's education and "On Your Side" pages are dated-the oldest goes back to last year. But these sections do, however, provide links to useful outside sites, such as various Central Kentucky primary and secondary schools, the Better Business Bureau, and Consumer Reports On-Line.
Don't bother looking for local news on WDKY's (www.WDKY56.com) or WVLK-AM's (www. wvlkam.com) sites. There isn't any.
If you want current local news content, the place to go is the Herald-Leader (www.kentuckyconnect.com/heraldleader). You can get more in-depth coverage of local events, specialized coverage (Business, Bluegrass Communities, Faith & Values, and On Campus), and sports here than anywhere else in Lexington, and the national news coverage is pretty solid as well.
You're SOL, though, if you're looking for stuff other than the current week's events or a few selected special reports. While the search engine provided by H-L parent Knight-Ridder makes it super easy to find articles using keyword searches, you have to pay $1.95 each to read archived stories. (Hint: if you're looking for info on a Kentucky-based story, try the Louisville Courier-Journal, http://www.courier-journal.com. They'll let you read archived stories for free.)
Ace's website (www.acemagazine.com, soon to change to www.aceweekly.com) is happy to provide you with the weekly cover story, the Horse's Mouth (editorial), and random selections from the "News and Views" front section, but other stuff (the biggest draws of the paper, like Ace Picks, and Arts coverage) can only be found in the paper version. (A&E content was restored to the online version after a reader's complaining Letter to the Editor in the June 8 issue.)
The font size is small, the layout uninspired, and searching through back issues by keyword doesn't return stuff from the year 2000. This site provides the bare minimum necessary to have a web presence at all and could be a much better resource for Lexingtonians looking for alternative sources of information on arts and culture, which really can't be found anywhere else in town.
In the end, your choices in national online news are virtually unlimited and of very high quality, but local news for the most part has a way to go. No new news there.