I'm an insatiable news hound. I read two or three newspapers a day, watch Cable News Network and listen to all-news radio when I'm driving.
I don't abandon my addiction when I sit down at the computer. There are a number of on-line computer information services that provide current news and the ability to search through back stories.
CompuServe Information Service is the most popular. The service requires that a computer be equipped with a modem and communications software. Using the service ties up your phone line, but although CompuServe's mainframes are in Ohio, you can connect via a local call from most areas. The service costs $12.50 per hour.
News provided by the Associated Press through AP Online includes hourly news updates and additional reports broken down into such categories as weather, national, Washington, world, entertainment and business.
NewsGrid, also available on CompuServe, provides updated reports from a wide variety of sources including United Press International, Associated Press, PR Newswire, Agence France Presse, Deutsche Presse-Agentur from West Germany, Kyodo News Service from Japan and Xinhua News Agency from China. There is also a financial market update feature and, unlike AP Online, NewsGrid allows you to search by keywords.
Another CompuServe service, Executive News Service, functions as your personal clipping service. You enter key words that interest you and the service scans AP, UPI, Reuters Financial Report, The Washington Post and OTC NewsAlert.
Unlike other search systems it will not allow you to search back issues. Once you've entered your key words it starts scanning stories as they are published. It then saves them for you so that you can later go back on line to retrieve the information. Executive News Service carries a surcharge of $15 per hour in addition to CompuServe's regular rates.
CompuServe also offers services that let you go through back issues of publications, but they can be expensive to use. Each successful search costs a minimum of $3 just to display the titles of up to 10 articles. You pay another $3 for each additional 10 articles plus $3 for each article for which you display full text.
The Newspaper Library requires that you specify which paper you wish to search, but CompuServe offers another database for those who want to search across a large number of newspapers and other sources, IQuest searches through more than 800 publications and, unlike most other services, its software will locate the appropriate databases for you.
But it can be quite expensive. It costs $9 for each search. That entitles you to list of 10 articles and the ability to display the full text of one article. It costs $9 more for each additional article you display or $2 for each abstract. These charges are in addition to regular CompuServe rates. CompuServe can be reached at (800) 848-8199.
If you're willing to limit your searches to evenings and weekends, you can save a lot of money by subscribing to Knowledge Index, a service of Dialog Information Service. Knowledge Index charges a one-time $35 initiation fee plus an on-line charge of $24 per hour. There are no additional surcharges.
The service contains abstracts and bibliographic information from a wide variety of academic and scientific databases. And it offers full text from several leading newspapers.
Dialog Information Service, which operates Knowledge Index, can be reached at (800) 334-2564.
As it turns out, phone lines aren't the only way to get information into your computer. Xpress Information Services offers a service that provides news and information via signals coming from participating cable TV systems.
The company charges a one-time fee of $99.95 for its software and a special modem-like device that connects your PC to your TV cable. Unlike on-line services, data flows in a one-way direction so you can't use it to send electronic mail or enter queries.
The best news is that there are no monthly or hourly charges for the basic service. Headline news along with sports and weather are provided by AP, Knight-Ridder, USA Today and other sources. International news comes from Tass, Xinhua, Kyodo and other services from Mexico, Canada, Taiwan, West Germany, France and the Middle East.
The company also offers an advanced service, for $19.95 per month, that includes all the basic services plus additional features such as price quotes from more than 30,000 securities. Quotes are delayed 15 minutes behind the official ticker. A personal portfolio management option lets users monitor the trading activity of as many as 128 symbols.
The service is not available in all areas. For more information, contact your local cable company or call Xpress at (800) 7PC-NEWS.
Readers' comments are welcomed. Write to Lawrence J. Magid, P.O. Box 620477, Woodside, Calif. 94062, or contact the L. Magid account on the MCI electronic mail system.