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Net delivers early news of Hussein's capture

Americans log onto the Internet to learn about the capture of the deposed Iraqi leader because the news broke after most of the nation's newspapers had gone to print.

Americans logged onto the Internet to learn about the capture of Saddam Hussein because the news broke after most of the nation's newspapers had "gone to bed."

Saddam's capture was announced early Sunday morning--just hours past the print publishing deadline for the Sunday edition of major newspapers.

The front-page of The Washington Post's print edition carried no news of the capture. But the paper's Internet edition had a staff-written news story and video detailing Saddam's capture in a hole near an Iraqi farm house.

The New York Times' Sunday newspaper--with one of the nation's biggest circulations--also had no mention of the news. But its Internet site read "Saddam Hussein is Captured by U.S.: 'We got him' Bremer says in Baghdad."

On the West Coast, the San Francisco Chronicle that landed on this journalist's driveway at 8:04 a.m. PST--long after the news was announced--did not mention Hussein's capture, either. Its Web site carried an Associated Press dispatch with the headline "Saddam Captured."

Internet sites including CNN, Fox, ABC News and MSNBC all carried substantial reports on Saddam's capture, as did news-aggregation sites such as Google and Yahoo. The access to some of them was sluggish Sunday, possibly indicating a surge in traffic and another sign of the Net's growing influence as a source of news.

A generation of younger readers admit to getting their news from the Internet, not newspapers.

Internet competition is forcing newspapers--and their giant newsgathering forces--to publish more original reporting on their Web sites, a practice they have resisted in the past.

As businesses, newspapers have feared "cannibalizing" their paid print editions with free Internet news. In addition, reporters and editors have been reluctant to work for two masters--a print, as well as an Internet edition.

Newspapers had a chance to keep pace with their Internet and TV brethren this weekend. President Bush learned Saturday afternoon that Hussein may have been captured, but the news didn't leak out until Sunday morning.