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Report: Digital Divide Shows Signs Of Narrowing

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Report: Digital Divide Shows Signs Of Narrowing

Digital Life

Report: Digital Divide Shows Signs Of Narrowing

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TONY COX, host:

The gulf between the Internet haves and have-nots is shrinking. And according to a new report, that's good news for African-Americans. We turn now to Geoffrey Bennett for our final Web check-in. He is the digital producer for News & Notes. Hey, Geoff.

GEOFFREY BENNETT: Hey, Tony.

COX: So, apparently the so-called digital divide is narrowing. Tell us about that.

BENNETT: Well, in four years, an estimated 56 percent of African-Americans will be online, that rate growing by about 2 percent each year. And this is according to an agency called eMarketer, which specializes in Internet market research. So right now, they, say 46 percent of black American use the Web, compared to 66 percent of the white population and about 70 percent of Asian-Americans. And one of the report's analysts says that younger black Internet users are most comfortable visiting social networks, downloading and streaming music and videos, and blogging and playing games - pretty much as one might expect. And black baby boomers are online in high numbers, mostly for checking email and catching up on news.

COX: Well, this marks, as we said, the final time that we're going to hear about the latest happenings on our blog and the wider blogosphere. So we are joined by our other Web producer named Geoff, Mr. Geoffrey Gardner. Hey, Geoff.

GEOFFREY GARDNER: Hey, Tony.

COX: So, News & Notes made some great strides at incorporating an online experience into our radio show. You were a big part of that. Tell us some of the highlights.

GARDNER: Oh wow. Well, back in the beginning of - if you remember the Jena Six controversy, News & Notes was really the first and only national show to follow that story in the beginning, before it hit the mainstream and really blew up. And as a result, there were sites like Color of Change, that used News & Notes as a rallying point for their cause, and we had blog posts that would generate hundreds of comments, you know, just based on this. And so that was a really big deal for us in the beginning.

COX: You know, we're going to be having our final Blogger's Roundtable coming up after this discussion. So let me ask both of you, starting with you Geoffrey. How and why were bloggers so crucial to our show?

BENNETT: Well, I tend to see bloggers as the social and cultural temperature takers of the community. And I think one of the great things about having bloggers on this show is that for people who had no idea what News & Notes was, but readers on a particular blog, they came to know our show in a certain way. And then for people who listen to the show but didn't really care too much for blogging or blogs, were introduced to new voices. And so, in that way, I think, that sort of symbiotic relationship helped grow our audience, and I think served the kind of reporting and coverage that we do.

COX: Let me ask you, Geoffrey. Do you think, Geoffrey Gardner, that we helped to expand the credibility of bloggers through this show?

GARDNER: Yeah, the blogisphere is growing in size. And, you know, I'd like to think that our blogs have something to do with the credibility aspect. You know, a lot of people look at blogs as this new source of information, but who are you talking to? And, you know, NPR has credibility. And there is something that goes along with that name. I'm thinking, you associate it, we bring on bloggers and we give them that. We lend them a much larger voice than they normally would. And I think as a result, we see the bloggers that we've had on, their own sites have grown, you know, exponentially.

COX: You know, I supposed they've helped, Geoffrey Bennett, to - I don't know, shape our program somewhat.

BENNETT: They have, and I want to emphasize a point, but not pat ourselves on the back too much. I think it's important to say that our show is the only show on the national stage that highlights black bloggers the way that we do, and I think when our show goes off the air, there will be a void in that space. And I think, you know, we give bloggers a voice in our show. We also give our listeners a voice in this show. I think when this show was reformatted a few years ago, we were given a mandate to unite the radio listeners with online listeners. And for NPR and for some sectors of the public radio space, that meant forging new ground, and we did that. So, a lot of our listeners might not know but, you know, the comments they leave on our Web site, their thoughts make their way into our editorial meetings every day. And sometimes it shapes the way we cover stories, sometimes it doesn't. But, you know, we're listening, and we've appreciated their input.

COX: You talked about how we've expanded. One of the ways that we have done that even though this is a radio program, Geoff Gardner, is through the video presence that we have, and you are our main video producer. Talk for a moment about some of the most memorable interviews and performances that you taped right here in Studio B.

GARDNER: Yeah, right here. Like you said, we have this five-camera system that's really great. And really, what separates the technology isn't so much what, you know, what the emphasis is, as the content. And, you know, the discussions and conversations that you and Farai had with our guests, our ability to videotape and show that, you know, it really lends a whole new side to things. And like, we had a conversation with Rev Run and his wife, Justine, and it would have been a normal interview. But when you see the video and you see their reactions and the back and forth, you can see their facial expressions, and it really becomes a whole new thing.

(Soundbite of Interview)

Rev. RUN SIMMONS: I'll argue with her but I realize at that moment, or she'll realize at that moment, OK, she's not agreeing with me.

JUSTINE: Yeah...

Rev. SIMMONS: One of us...

JUSTINE: It's like...

Rev. SIMMONS: Wait a minute, one of us is going to have to back down.

JUSTINE: You keep saying that, baby. I want to say something.

Rev. SIMMONS: Well, I was still...

JUSTINE: OK, OK. Anyway...

COX: That was quite an argument between Reverend Run and his wife, and you didn't get the full flavor of it, you're right, unless you could actually see her expressions when they were talking to each other. Let's end it with this, guys. What about our Facebook and YouTube presence? Will that end on Friday as well?

GARDNER: Our social networks will remain intact. So people can still go to Facebook and YouTube and check out our archive of video and then leave comments if they have something to say that, you know, about our show two weeks from now. But our newsletter ends this Friday. So, Friday is our last day for our daily newsletter, and we'll have more information there about how people can find other NPR email newsletters.

COX: Geoff and Geoff, you guys did great work.

BENNETT: Thank you very much, Tony.

COX: It's a pleasure having you with us. Geoffrey Bennett and Geoffrey Gardner are the digital producers for News & Notes. They joined me here in the studios of NPR West.

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