By JUA NYLA HUTCHESON

Reuters

NEW ORLEANS -- Newspapers do not have to become ``road kill on the information superhighway'' as some industry analysts predicted a few years ago, the president and chief executive officer of the Newspaper Association of America said Tuesday.

In an interview at the association's annual meeting, Cathleen Black told Reuters that newspapers traditionally have transformed themselves to meet societal changes and are doing so again.

``What I think is happening is newspapers have a renewed sense of confidence,'' she said. ``They're no longer frightened of change, but they are grappling with it.''

Newspapers are examining new markets, how to make their product more compelling and more relevant to readers, and how best to use new technologies -- although not everything that is tried will be successful, Black said.

Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr., The New York Times' publisher, agreed. ``We're going down this road,'' he told Reuters. ``I don't know where the hell it leads, but there's a lot of promise and twists and turns ahead.''

Newspapers are interested in going online because the medium ``is conducive to what we are,'' Sulzberger said. ``Papers have always been random access -- turn this page this way, that one the other way. Television puts you on a loop. You don't know what preceded it and have to ride along the way they lay it out.

``This offers us the opportunity to do things differently and also the possibility of being saved. You can still present news in an honest, straightforward manner. Paper is part of the legacy of newspapers, not what defines what we are.

``This puts more of the responsibility into the hands of reporters and editors, and content wins. From my point, I like that,'' he said. ``I'm excited about this.''

Black said 60 newspapers are completely online with electronic services -- ranging in size from the Chicago Tribune to the Pottsville, Pa., paper -- and 30 more this year will be on the World Wide Web, part of the Internet network of computers that provides photos, video and sound to users with the proper equipment.

Even with the explosion of news sources in recent years through cable television and now online, printed newspapers do not appear headed for extinction. ``I honestly believe that (printed newspapers) will be part of our lives far longer than the cynics predict,'' Black said.

An estimated 125 million people, 70 percent of the U.S. population, read Sunday papers, with 61 percent reading daily papers. ``Even the nightly news on ABC, NBC and CBS combined only reaches 41 million people,'' she said.''

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