By Charles Haddad, The Atlanta Journal and Constitution Knight-Ridder/Tribune Business News

ATLANTA--Apr. 24--Cyberspace. For daily newspapers, it may be the final frontier.

As consumer interest in computers and on-line services grows exponentially, newspapers are looking for ways to make their information available to readers digitally.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is among scores of newspaper nationwide that already have digital editions available through on-line services such as Prodigy and America Online.

But newspapers want to be much more than just text on a computer screen. Some editors dream of a day when they can send you up-to-the-minute traffic reports, weather forecasts and stock quotes via computers, television or hand-held telephones.

One option some newspapers think is viable is to join together in one large network, giving readers access to any story, fact or expert.

In a step toward that goal, eight of the country's biggest newspaper publishers announced a joint venture last week. The venture partners are Cox Newspapers Inc., owner of the Atlanta newspapers, Advance Publications Inc., Gannett Company Inc., Hearst Corp., Knight-Ridder Inc., Times Mirror Co., Tribune Co. and the Washington Post Co. partners.

The venture, called New Century Network, will try to establish a common, easy-to-use electronic format for the industry. New Century also hopes to help newspapers design new electronic services.

``This is not an electronic version of the newspaper,'' says Peter Winter, a Cox executive serving as interim chief executive of New Century. ``We're trying to do new things with old skills.''

Among the services New Century will provide are access to the Internet, electronic mail and bulletin boards. It also will link member newspapers so that a subscriber to one could access information from others. END!M$3?AT-HADDAD-COL

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