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Online Journalism

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Online Journalism

Online journalism is defined as the reporting of facts when produced and distributed via the Internet.

History

An early leader in online journalism was The News & Observer in Raleigh, North Carolina. Steve Yelvington wrote on the Poynter Institute website about Nando, owned by The N&O, by saying "Nando evolved into the first serious, professional news site on the World Wide Web". It originated in the early 1990s as "NandO Land". Online news sources began to proliferate in the 1990s. Salon, founded in 1995, was an early leader of online-only reporting. In 2001 the American Journalism Review called Salon the Internet's "preeminent independent venue for journalism."[1]

As of 2009, audiences for online journalism continue to grow. In 2008, for the first time, more Americans reported getting their national and international news from the internet, rather than newspapers.[2] Young people aged 18 to 29 now primarily get their news via the Internet, according to a PEW Research Center report.[3] Audiences to news sites continued to grow due to the launch of new news sites, continued investment in news online by conventional news organizations, and the continued growth in internet audiences overall.[4] Sixty-five percent of youth now primarily access the news online.[5]

Prior to 2008, the industry had hoped that publishing news online would prove lucrative enough to fund the costs of conventional newsgathering.[6] In 2008, however, online advertising began to slow down, and little progress was made towards development of new business models.[4] The Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism describes its 2008 report on the State of the News Media, its sixth, as its bleakest ever.[7] Despite the uncertainty, online journalists report expanding newsrooms. They believe advertising is likely to be the best revenue model supporting the production of online news.[8]

Many news organizations based in other media also distribute news online, but the amount they use of the new medium varies. Some news organizations use the Web exclusively or as a secondary outlet for their content. The Online News Association, founded in 1999, is the largest organization representing online journalists, with more than 1,700 members whose principal livelihood involves gathering or producing news for digital presentation.[9]

The Internet challenges traditional news organizations in several ways. Newspapers may lose classified advertising to websites, which are often targeted by interest instead of geography. These organizations are concerned about real and perceived loss of viewers and circulation to the Internet.

Work outside traditional press

The Internet has also given rise to more participation by people who are not normally journalists, such as with Indy Media (Max Perez).

Bloggers write on web logs or blogs. Traditional journalists often do not consider bloggers to automatically be journalists. This has more to do with standards and professional practices than the medium. But, as of 2005, blogging has generally gained at least more attention and has led to some effects on mainstream journalism, such as exposing problems related to a television piece about President George W. Bush's National Guard Service.

Other significant tools of on-line journalism are Internet forums, discussion boards and chats, especially those representing the Internet version of official media. The widespread use of the Internet all over the world created a unique opportunity to create a meeting place for both sides in many conflicts, such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the First and Second Chechen Wars. Often this gives a unique chance to find new, alternative solutions to the conflict, but often the Internet is turned into the battlefield by contradicting parties creating endless "online battles."

Internet radio and podcasts are other growing independent media based on the Internet.

Legal issues

One emerging problem with online journalism in the United States is that, in many states, individuals who publish only on the Web do not enjoy the same First Amendment rights as reporters who work for traditional print or broadcast media. As a result, unlike a newspaper, they are much more liable for such things as libel. In California, however, protection of anonymous blog sources was ruled to be the same for both kinds of journalism.

Extra-jurisdictional enforcement

In Canada there are more ambiguities, as Canadian libel law permits suits to succeed even if no false statements of fact are involved, and even if matters of public controversy are being discussed. In British Columbia, as part of "a spate of lawsuits" against online news sites, according to legal columnist Michael Geist, several cases have put key issues in online journalism up for rulings. Geist mentioned that Green Party of Canada financier Wayne Crookes filed a suit in which he alleged damages for an online news service that republished resignation letters from that party and let users summarize claims they contained. He had demanded access to all the anonymous sources confirming the insider information, which Geist believed would be extremely prejudicial to online journalism. The lawsuit, "Crookes versus openpolitics", attracted attention from the BBC and major newspapers, perhaps because of its humorous name. Crookes had also objected to satire published on the site, including use of the name "gang of Crookes" for his allies. Subsequently, Crookes sued Geist, expanding the circle of liability. Crookes also sued Google, World Heritage Encyclopedia, Yahoo, PBwiki, domain registrars and Green bloggers who he felt were associated with his political opponents. Crookes' attempt to enforce BC's plaintiff-friendly libel laws on California, Ontario and other jurisdictions led to an immediate backlash in bad publicity but the legal issues remain somewhat unresolved as of November 2009. Crookes lost four times on the grounds that he had not shown anyone in BC had actually read the materials on the minor websites, but this left the major question unresolved: How to deal with commentary deemed fair in one jurisdiction but actionable in another, and how to ensure that universal rights to free speech and reputation are balanced in a way that does not lead to radically different outcomes for two people who might for instance participate in a conversation on the Internet.

Right to reply or refactor

International issues

Non-democratic regimes that do not respect international human rights law present special challenges for online journalism:

  • Persons reporting from those regimes or with relatives under those regimes may be intimidated, harassed, tortured or killed and the risk of their exposure generally rises if they become involved in a private dispute and are subjected to civil discovery, or if a plaintiff or police officer or government official pressures an international service provider to disclose their identity.
  • If print and broadcast journalists are excluded, unverifiable reports from persons on the spot (as during the Iran election crisis of 2009) may be the only way to relay news at all - each individual incident may be unverifiable though statistically a much more representative sample of events might be gathered this way if enough citizens are participating in gathering the news.
  • Court processes that do not explicitly respect the rights of fair comment on public issues, political expression in general, religious freedoms, the right to dissent government decisions or oppose power figures, could be imposed on persons who merely comment on a blog or wiki. If judgments can be enforced at a distance, this may require expensive legal responses or chill on comment while cases move through a remote court, with the proceedings possibly even being heard in a foreign language under rules the commentator never heard of before. If people from relatively free countries engage in conversations with those from oppressive countries, for instance on homosexuality, they may actually contribute to exposing and loss of human rights by their correspondents.

News collections

The Internet also offers options such as personalized news feeds and aggregators, which compile news from different websites into one site. One of the most popular news aggregators is Google News. Others include Topix.net, and TheFreeLibrary.com.

But, some people see too much personalization as detrimental. For example, some fear that people will have narrower exposure to news, seeking out only those commentators who already agree with them.

As of March 2005, rewrites articles from other news organizations. Original reporting remains a challenge on the Internet as the burdens of verification and legal risks (especially from plaintiff-friendly jurisdictions like BC) remain high in the absence of any net-wide approach to defamation.

See also

References

External links

  • Overview of Internet Reporting and Multimedia Storytelling from News-Geek.com
  • Online News Association
  • Online Journalism Review
  • Teaching Online Journalism
  • eJournalist
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