Interim's website is flourishing
For more than a year now, an Internet website has been providing a wealth of information related to issues of human life and the family to not only a Canadian audience, but a worldwide one as well.
LifeSite was founded initially by Campaign Life Coalition as a temporary measure during the 1997 federal election campaign in order to give pro-lifers information on the candidates' views on life issues. Soon after, a daily news service was added.
It stemmed out of a series of daily, e-mail news briefings sent out by CLC since 1995. The site, now under the auspices of Interim Publishing, has gone on to become a permanent presence in cyberspace, with a greatly expanded list of resources available to the interested Web surfer.
"The exciting part of it all is that we can get around the media shutout, go directly to the people, and bring them the truth," said CLC's Toronto director, Steve Jalsevac. "It's an economical way to communicate with large numbers of people. We're trying to be prudent with this venture, and the people who have been working on it have been very generous."
Lifesite's first webmaster, Hugh Ranalli, donated his after-work hours to get the site started. The team now includes Jalsevac, John-Henry Westen, Tim Bloedow, webmaster Tony Casta and 16-year-old Dominic Jalsevac, who puts the regular daily and monthly items on the site.
LifeSite is offering Web users such features as LifeSite Daily News (which consists of briefings of top stories related to life and family issues), recent and back issues of The Interim and the monthly CLC National News, links to other sites, archives, a Linda Gibbons page, audio and video clips, search tools and an area devoted to the annual May 14 March for Life.
"LifeSite Daily News is the most accessed part of the website so far," said Jalsevac. "It's a major undertaking to do it." He noted that the news briefings have most attracted Web users in (after Canada) the U.S., U.K., Australia, Singapore, New Zealand, Malaysia, Mexico, The Netherlands and Argentina, in that order. Tens of thousands of "hits" have so far been recorded on the website.
Jalsevac said CLC had been asked for several years to start a presence on the World Wide Web, but the circumstances weren't right until the 1997 federal election campaign.
"The results of questionnaires on life and family issues that were sent to the candidates are still on the website," said Jalsevac. "People can go in and see how all the current MPs responded to the questionnaires at that time."
The task of developing the site is far from finished. Jalsevac said plans are in place to add features such as detailed statistics on abortion.
"We also want to put up a War Against the Family section that would give people easy access to quotes and documents about the international attack on the family, and put on a lot more audio and video items. We want to use the site to help national pro-life, pro-family activists in a big way, but a lot depends on the contributions we get from people who appreciate this venture."
Yet another project is the posting of CLC's political briefing books on abortion and euthanasia. Jalsevac said the current section devoted to Linda Gibbons is very important, because it eliminates some common misconceptions about the Toronto activist's actions.
"Few people understand why Linda Gibbons keeps going to jail and what has taken place regarding the court injunction. People do not understand how the Ontario government has been less than honest not only with the public, but with its own MPPs."
Jalsevac said an obstacle the pro-life, pro-family movement currently faces is the lack of computer and World Wide Web knowledge and facility possessed by many of its members. It's a problem he's tried to address by composing columns on computer and Web basics in recent issues of The Interim.
"A majority of people will have access to the Web in the next few years," he said. "We're there early, and we're encouraging pro-life and pro-family people to use the Web to our advantage."
John-Henry Westen, a CLC researcher based in Bancroft, Ont., said that even before LifeSite appeared on the Web, CLC had been regularly e-mailing news briefings on issues related to life and the family to a select group of receivers.
"At the time we started, no other pro-life organization was doing this, as far as we know," he said. "We found that there was a lot of articles to send out, so I eventually started compiling everything into one, long sendout once per day. After that, we found that we had to include pro-life commentary and information, because the news articles from the secular press were so slanted against us."
The concept evolved to the point where LifeSite began composing its own news stories, based on information culled from a variety of sources. Currently, each daily news briefing consists of four or five concise summaries of the top news stories of the day, with links often given in order to provide more details.
"LifeSite Daily News is being used by a lot of the Christian radio and television outlets in the U.S.," said Westen. "I was recently on air Prime Time America, a national broadcast that was interviewing presidential candidate Alan Keyes at the time. We're also often called by pro-life and pro-family groups who want to get more information on stories we carry."
Westen said there are plans to expand LifeSite Daily News and make it available to the "mainstream" media.
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