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On-Line Service for N.C. Students Launched

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One of North Carolina's largest newspapers has launched a new on-line service that allows any school in the state to obtain electronic news reports and access to the global Internet computer network free of charge over existing telephone lines.

The News and Observer of Raleigh, in partnership with Business Telecom Inc., a local long-distance telephone company, launched the new service, called "Nando Land,'' last month with a demonstration for state officials at a Raleigh middle school.

The name of the service derives from "N and O,'' local slang for the News and Observer.

The project--which newspaper officials acknowledge is in part an effort to recruit a new generation of readers--is not affiliated with a statewide program recently begun by North Carolina to develop a high-speed data network.

But universal educational access to the state-backed network is years in the future. In the meantime, said George Schlukbier, the newspaper's director of new media, Nando Land offers schools immediate and relatively uncomplicated access to a wealth of electronic data.

"We're the 'dusty country road' of the 'information superhighway,''' he joked.

While Nando Land is not designed to compete with the video and data services that will be available on the state's network, it will offer graphics and other information developed by the newspaper, wire-service stories not included in the print edition, and access to the Wake County library system and to state-government data bases.

To use the new service, schools need only have a relatively lowpowered computer, a modem, and a color monitor.

A school with just one phone line can participate, Mr. Schlukbier emphasized. "They can connect tomorrow, with a local telephone call,'' he said.

Attracting Young Subscribers

Nando Land is available only between 7:30 A.M. and 2 P.M. during the school week, partly to insure that teachers are on hand to supervise students as they navigate on the Internet.

A number of sexually oriented bulletin boards are part of the vast repository of information on the Internet, Mr. Schlukbier noted, and users could access them through Nando Land.

As part of the project, the paper's education branch is offering courses in schools and at a local community college to help teachers become familiar with the system.

Gov. James B. Hunt Jr., who attended the Nando Land demonstration last month, hailed the project as a "great example of how public-private partnerships can insure that ... students will get the technology tools they need.''

But Mr. Schlukbier conceded that Nando Land also tackles a problem that plagues almost every daily newspaper: attracting and holding young subscribers.

He predicted that children who first encounter Nando Land in the 3rd grade will be more likely to subscribe to the service as adults, at a time when access to electronic media is expected to be more common.

"If they have been with us for 10 years, when they go to college, which is when we usually lose them as readers, they're going to want Nando,'' he said.

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