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Reporter's Notebook - 11/6/99
By Martin Kaste

THE TIMBERWOLVES LOST TO the Sacramento Kings here on Saturday, 100-95. I can't tell you much more about the game than that, and not for lack of trying. I did get to sit courtside with the real sportswriters, and they shared this interesting bit of trivia: On these promotional games in Japan, the two imported NBA teams take turns being the "home" team. I guess having both teams play as the "visitors" would screw up the season statistics. So the Wolves were considered visitors for this first game. On Sunday, they enjoy the home-court advantage.

That's all I have to write about basketball.

It finally happened. This morning, when a talking ATM machine thanked me for my business, I bowed.

Sound-producing computers have been a very important part of this trip. Our listeners probably don't usually stop to wonder how we get audio back to Minnesota from places like Japan, but you should. It's really kind of cool.

I mix my stories on a laptop computer -- that part is not really new, as we've been mixing our stories this way at MPR for almost five years. But the computer audio file has now made it possible to take the next step: dispensing with the studio-links. Instead of crossing town every day to the local NPR bureau to feed the audio, I simply dial up an Internet service from my hotel room. A cheap piece of software on the laptop compresses the story into one of those "MP3" files you hear so much about, and then I send the finished file to a computer in Minnesota. A five-minute story takes about half-an-hour to feed. I can do it any time of day or night, and then go to bed secure in the knowledge that the engineers at MPR will find my file, decompress it, and set it up to play on Morning Edition.

I send the electronic snapshots a similar way; you Web-browsers sometimes see the results within the hour.

The globe-shrinking realities of the Internet are affecting the way my colleagues in other media do their jobs, too. Print reporters are almost constantly phoning in "refreshers" for their newspapers' Web sites. The Governor will say something interesting, and they step to the back of bus with their cell phones and call it in. What's interesting is how the Web has made the newspapers an "immediate" medium -- a distinction we've always assumed belonged to broadcast. In some cases, they're almost more immediate, because they can update constantly, and we in radio usually wait for the top of the hour with new stuff, and local TV holds it until the evening.

In fact, it turns out TV is the slowest medium covering this trip. They're knocking themselves out, running around Tokyo with all their bulky equipment, and it can take them hours to edit and feed their video tape from a local network bureau.

Also, TV is not part of the "echo-chamber effect" as much as the rest of us are. By "echo-chamber," I mean the fact that the Governor's staff constantly checks the Web pages of the newspapers (and MPR, it turns out!) to see what we're saying about Ventura.

At one point, a colleague cringed as he sent a mildly-controversial bit of news from the computer in his hotel room, because he half expected someone from the governor's staff to show up at his door within minutes to complain.

No one showed up, but he knew that they knew that he knew they were reading him on the Web. That's the "echo-chamber."