August 16, 2009

Looking online uncovers basic differences, missing links and opportunities

Going online to learn more about the former Newhouse News Service reporter who just died in Afghanistan uncovered a few things I hate.

It was interesting to see how many sources differed on what I would consider basics - the name of Bill Cahir's wife, when he became a Marine, when he was overseas and his employers.

It's a shame that Cahir's family will miss many of the wonderful messages left online. I know of tools to aggregate what I've said across the Internet or find comments with a key phrase. I've yet to discover the tool that pulls together all comments from all that's been written about Bill since he was killed this week.

I don't understand why online operations replace accurate content with newer content in the same space? One Pennsylvania news site, for instance. changed its story at the same web address at least four times. There was one quote that was only in the first and fourth versions. I'd prefer separate stories with links back to the older stories or at least a note saying updated.

At least those sites were updated. I was surprised to learn that some newspapers in the Advance Publications system still wait until the print edition hits the streets. That meant some of the best stories about Bill Cahir lost potential links from other sites.

I'm shocked at how many sites didn't include links to the best coverage on the web, much less links back to their previous stories about Bill.

Since Bill worked for Newhouse, why wouldn't the Newhouse sites have links to a joint photo gallery, Bill's first person account of boot camp, columns from those who worked with him, a July 14 Associated Press that included quotes from Cahir, and a basic bio or timeline. There even was the opportunity to link to some of Cahir's work, some of it now in the paid archives.

But then, who pays for linkers, right?

Jim Six, whom I accidentally met through Facebook, is angry about bigger things and writes about it in "Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try."

It's a line from Bill Cahir, and the column is about Six' anger about Cahir's death and the war in Afghanistan. Jim and Bill worked together for about 10 years through Gloucester County Times, part of the Advance Publications network, publishing on

In his latest column, Six asks "Why are the Afghanis not more involved in fighting for their right to vote, or to rid themselves of the totalitarian Taliban? You have to ask after awhile, why are U.S. and NATO commanders tying the hands of their warriors and painting bull's eyes on their camo uniforms? "

But do not peg Six as antimilitary. He had just written about an upcoming picnic for veterans in Recognizing another hero.

By the way, NBCWashington is reporting that a memorial has been set up by the Burke and Herbert Bank for Bill's wife and twins-to-be, due in December. has more photos and links John Barna of the Gloucester County Times finished up his article on Cahir.

The NBCWashington interview that includes a reporter speaking with Bill's father and Deborah Howell, one of Bill's bosses at the Newhouse News Service bureau in Washington D.C.


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