Essay: Technological Effects on Journalism Through the Internet

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Technological Effects on Journalism Through the Internet

The traditional processes and roles of journalism are going through disruptive economic, social, and political change as a result of the pervasive influence of the Internet and social media. The nature of journalism itself is changing fast as the accumulated effects of the Internet reorder the economics of this industry (Thiel, 2005). With the rapid shifts in the underlying technologies increasing the speed of reporting, there is a corresponding shift in how news is produced and published (Nancy, 2000). With the accelerating speed of reporting there is are emerging challenges surrounding accountability and ethics however (Overholser, 2009). Balancing the convenience and speed of the Internet as a publishing platform on the one hand, and the unique, highly targeted nature of social media on the other is a strategic conflict the industry will see for the long-term (Murdoch, 2010). The intent of this analysis is to provide a historical context as to how the Internet is changing journalism today, what the key technologies are that are impacting journalism, and assess the impact of social media on the journalism profession.

The Internet has swiftly progressed from a news-gathering platform to a publishing medium (Loop, 1999) This transition has drastically re-ordered the economics of news reporting and analysis, and also has led to entirely unforeseen ethical, legal and regulatory implications of journalistic practices and integrity (Nancy, 2000). Amidst all of these shifts in the industry structure has been the rise of independent journalists who are often given equal or even greater attention and readership from the public. Rupert Murdoch sees the growth of the Internet as inexorable and capable of re-defining the economics of traditional news gathering, analysis, reporting and syndication (Murdoch, 2010). The fact that many bloggers have more loyal audiences that even the most well-known journalists is a case in point. Another is the rise of blogging syndicates that in many cases have larger and more influential audiences than the traditional news outlets. These independent blogger syndicates are often seen as more trustworthy and less biased than their traditional news organization counterparts.

From the beginnings of journalism in the Middle Ages with the invention fo the Gutenberg printing press, followed by the innovations of moveable type, journalism has flourished in democratic societies. Even in those that were totalitarian, the power of journalism as a communications paradigm was so effective that dictators were known to create their own newspapers with "news" showing how well the country was doing. The power of news as a source of unequivocal truth and a very powerful accessory to democracy was shown throughout the formative years of the United States. From simplistic moveable type machines, word of mouth, town criers and eventually to mass produced newspapers, the revolution of the United States would not have been possible without journalism. The maturation of journalism is the maturation fo democracy the continued advances from digital type to electronically managed printing presses and then to highly intuitive publishing and printing systems fueled a new level of journalistic accuracy and alacrity of publishing. The lag times from investigation to print was significantly minimized. With the latest generation fo printing presses, journalists can literally file their stories within an hour of the deadline and still have it appear both in the print and online editions of their papers. All of these innovations in journalism have led to the rapid adoption of social networking applications in the profession. The adoption of these applications has been a turning point in journalism globally.

The inflexion point for the journalism industry began when the Internet and its rapid publishing platforms allowed journalists greater flexibility and peed in reporting their stories (Picard, 2009). With this new platform came the ability to also share information with greater accuracy and authenticity too. Journalists became more trusted as a result. The shift form traditional journalism to bloggers was a result of the latter group having a much greater command of their new medium.

Paralleling this shift in trust from the traditional journalists to the blogger community was increasing scrutiny of just how unbiased traditional journalists were. During election years as 2012 has been in the United States there is also the question of just how unbiased the traditional journalists are with regard to reporting the policies and platforms of presidential candidates (Picard, 2009). What's emerging from this analysis of traditional vs. online media is the question of accuracy, authenticity, and trustworthiness of each type of media. Traditional media outlets that veer to the far left and right of political views as Fox News has been known to do illustrate this dichotomy.

What's critically important to remember about this polarity of journalistic approaches to reporting and analysis is that each has its own strengths and weaknesses. The weaknesses of traditional journalistic reporting includes the lag time of interviews to published stories, the influence of political forces on a reporter or entire news organization, and the lack of interaction with the reading audience. The strengths of these traditional approaches to journalism however ensured a consistency of process and predictability of how and when news would be distributed. It also brought the reader into the process more than ever before.

Paradoxically these same weaknesses of traditional journalism have served as foundation of the future of Internet- and social media-based journalism. For the first time audiences can now debate and converse with the journalists who are providing the news, and this has served as a catalyst of active collaboration, debate, which is the foundation of a strong government (Hermes, 2006). The greater the level of communication and dialogue between the readers and the writer or journalist, the more the journalist also understands the interest, perceptions, and values of their readers. This can lead to much greater levels of accuracy and acuity of focus in reporting, all aligned to what the readers are concerned about (Murdoch, 2010). The focus isn't on pleasing the reader per se, it is about providing a foundation for future dialogs and the ability to create a highly agile, fluid reporting style that informs and educates. And while bloggers have also been accused to being influenced by economic and political forces extensively in their reporting, the Internet in general and social media specifically creates a highly effective sounding board of dissenting voices and opinions. The public is much more likely to comment on any reporting that is clearly driven by ulterior motives; there is very little tolerance for pandering and being blatant in ones' writing or reporting, as the entire world can literally call a journalist on their integrity if it appears they are only saying what their sponsors want them to (Bernoff, Li, 2008). In this way, social networks have created a highly effective framework for ensuring the originality and independence of news Unoriginal and sponsored news is continually being produced, and the skeptical would say even more given the prevalence of social media channels (Adee, 2008). Despite the most skeptical and jaded nature of critics, one unequivocal fact remains, and that is anyone at any time can now write on any topic, and challenge any journalist they disagree with or see as unethical. There is a great freedom in that alone. Many have said the Internet and social media have brought journalistic ethics and integrity to the forefront of society, shining a light into the dark corners of conflict of interest and clarifying the role of reporting and journalistic analysis. The Internet and social media are in fact a crucible that journalism is passing through, clarifying and purifying it through continual critique and evaluation (Thiel, 2005). And while the critics of Internet and social media assail it for producing legions of commenters who consider themselves journalists, the fact that social media and the Internet are highly quantifiable by nature show the exact impact of their influence (Bernoff, Li, 2008). Journalism will continue to rapidly evolve as an increasingly open platform, with the unrest in the Middle East being the justification for its continual openness and use globally (Murdoch, 2010). The Arab Spring and most recently, the revolutions in Libya and throughout other neighboring nations all underscore just how critical an open, free press is. The Internet has set the foundation for massive social change and social media has been its accelerator. The radical evolution of journalism will continue to drive change into journalism at the most fundamental levels, with resulting need for managing the trade-offs of ethics and accountability to speed and agility (Thiel, 2005).

Key Technologies That Have Impacted Journalism

Of the many economic, social and political changes that journalism has gone through, the greatest catalyst of change continues to be the Web 2.0 technologies that have streamlined communication and collaboration online. Web 2.0 was designed by Tim O'Reilly as a framework to guide more collaborative, interactive communication between people using the Internet. Since its introduction in 2006, many of the most popular social networks including Facebook, Twitter and others all claim the initial concepts for their online applications began with… [END OF PREVIEW]

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