Sunday, July 7, 2002

Cooke cutting news
for delivery to phone users

Dan Cooke will be working the phones as well as anchoring the news even after he leaves KITV July 12.

As the Hawaii-based president and chief executive of California-based Vitex Inc., he is overseeing roll-out of the company's inaugural product, called NewsFone.

In partnership with Dow Jones & Co., "We are providing business and financial news from the Dow Jones News Services and Wall Street Journal via phone," Cooke said.

The main features of the news-by-phone service are the "What's News," column in the Journal and the "Stocks to Watch" according to Dow Jones. There will also be news updates on 14 industry sectors, such as telecom.

The two daily editions Monday through Friday will be updated for delivery at 6 a.m. and 5 p.m. Eastern time, Cooke said.

Subscribers "anywhere in the world dial a toll-free number, enter their subscriber code and get the latest news ... in their industry," he said.

The information is rewritten for presentation in a three-minute newscast, which is stored in a phone system and fed into the caller's phone on demand.

Cooke and former KPOI-FM morning show host Laurie Ann Salomon will be the primary anchors delivering the news, but the company will be looking at other voice talent over the next couple weeks. The NewsFone staff of about 12 operates in the Manoa Innovation Center and includes former KGMB reporter Collette Pritchard, former KITV producer Albert How and former Star-Bulletin reporter and Island Business executive Peter Wagner, as well as six interns from Cornell University and the University of Hawaii, who were selected from among 100 applicants.

Subscription is free and callers will pay per use, per product. Charges have yet to be finalized, but are expected to be in the range of 75 cents for the "What's News" column and 50 cents for each additional news update selection. Payment is via credit card according to

"We're targeting corporate executives, probably subscribers to the Wall Street Journal who don't have time to read it," he said. "That makes the drive into work productive, in the car, on the train, at the airport, in a cab, or if they're getting ready, by putting it on speakerphone."

"We've got a potential customer base of the whole country, the whole world, not just Hawaii," Cooke said.

The chairman of the company and originator of the NewsFone concept, Cooke said, is Lou Bucalo, a physician and principal of San Francisco-based Titan Pharmaceuticals.

Vitex plans to launch NewsFone and its advertising in the coming days. The company has not yet applied for the state's high-tech tax credit, "I'm just trying to get the product up and going," Cooke said.

Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin.
Call 529-4302, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle,
Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210,
Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached

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