Different news organizations have different strengths. Comparisons between newspapers and television newscasts always have been unfair; the two media are simply different products. The Internet is one medium, but the news organizations are different; Yahoo and AOL have advantages in offering readers a chance to define news for themselves, while newspapers and television stations are better suited toward using their own judgment and striving to be unique.

News organizations can build on traditional strengths while shedding the responsibility of being the "paper of record." Being all things to all people can be a secondary goal, but the primary goal should be to produce unique, well-explained information. They can be oases of accurate information in the wilderness of the Internet.

Having a variety of approaches ultimately benefits society because it imposes no limits on breadth of coverage. We need reporters to establish a baseline of facts — the tax rate for middle-income Americans is 20 percent, China has launched a missile into the sea near Taiwan, etc. — yet crusading newspapers and participating readers can explore problems and present sides of an issue that mere facts cannot describe. Commentary that is not backed by volumes of data is useful because it gives impressions of things that cannot be easily quantified, yet research that quantifies data is valuable as well.

Underlying all of the options should be a thoughtful news product that finds facts and puts them in context. Focusing on this task, and not the competition that underlies the issues described in this paper, keeps journalists true to the goals that make them unique. The best way to compete is not to compete.