Pursuing Journalism in a Digital World (A review)

How it started?

It took many years to make the print industry move forward and meet progress through the birth of computers. People have been dependent to printed news and they needed to wait before it comes to them, until the digital world finally banged the industry in the 1980s where technologies were introduced. Information gathering were expected to be faster that it made the broadcast industry to improve in their production.

The manual typewriters and teletype machines were replaced by video display terminals, followed by the birth of personal computers (PC). These PCs could have programs that can run applications such as word processing, desktop publishing and graphic designs; which perfectly suited the news organization’s demand on faster ways of production. A drawback is that only the large companies can afford to have these entry products. But getting into business was helped by the combination of the Apple Macintosh, Aldus PageMaker, Adobe PostScript and initial laser printers. These devices were less expensive in the mid 1980s that it allowed even the small companies to hit into the publishing revolution.

A faster production was followed by the birth of Internet, where even the journalists could easily access information really fast and distribute them. That was in the 1990s. The most in demand internet application during those times was E-mail. An application where the news industries could easily access their employee’s articles through receiving messages sent via internet. However, Rupert Murdoch, a media entrepreneur predicted a greater impact of the Internet in the years to come. Journalists were challenged not to be satisfied with the coming revolution about Internet. He reported about the youth’s (ages 18 & 34) changing habits in consumption. The web has become their initial medium for reading the news. The internet portals are more so accessed (44 %) than that of the printed news19%). Local TV news remained the most accessed source on a daily basis.

The web as the new medium

Since web news are more accessible than the printed edition, major newspapers in most markets decided to have their online edition. But with no clear idea on how they will get money though. In the long run, these newspaper industries used the web, just as their online extension of print. This means that writers may be able to just summarize their reports and avoid putting much information, since the full details are in print. This incident will limit the web from creating sensible public opinion. Contents that missed the chance of being published in print may be dumped into the web just to fill out their site, without being considerate of how the users may view it.

This approach is proved to be flawed. It was planned to have it an extension of the print, yes, but not as fillers of the page. It missed the importance of the web, actually designed for an innovative news destination. Print, broadcast and the web have characteristics that made their availability important. One does not need to be scrapped out or not consider.

Key differences of media types

In terms of availability the print will always be available and mostly for domestic and local consumption, we do not need any special equipment to access to it, graphics and layout are made to make every page more readable. If ever you’ll look for an archive for researches, it would be difficult. Drawbacks are it has limited space for a more detailed news story, it has fixed format and you’ll find it easy to correct errors. You’ll have limited interaction and it’s expensive.

Broadcast in the other hand has limited availability, also designed for domestic and local consumption. You need to have a TV or a radio and a power source to access to one. And archiving would be far more impossible since the broadcast industry doesn’t easily release their videos; you still need to pay for them. Audiovisual delivery of information is more dominant, it is limited by time but updates are immediately disclosed to public. It has fixed format and there is interaction between the audience and the anchor, but it’s very expensive.

And the web, details in it would always be available, designed for both the domestic and international consumption. But you still need to purchase a computer, a power source and internet access. Archives will easily be made available. There are print and graphics and audiovisual information. Unlimited space and time, updates are also immediate, details can be personalized, Interactive and is inexpensive.

Writing and editing for the web

 The web has similar style of editing to print. They both use the inverted pyramid style, which puts emphasis to the most important topics placed on the first part of a news article. The least important

elements are placed at the bottom to help the readers view the core events. ‘Readers’ don’t usually read, they simply scan pages that put a writer to make active voices on their titles. Composed of 5- 9 words in a continuous phrase, this works well in both print and web.

To make the pages eye- friendly and attract readers, writers make use of graphics and artworks (mostly digital art). But they are not placed in every page to simply attract, they also serve as a guide to readers on what they are about to read. It emphasizes the main theme or angle of an article.

The web’s new way

In order to have wider scope of readers, web developers found a new way on letting their articles is presented. This is through Hypertext and Layering. Hypertext refers to allowing the readers to jump into another link by simply clicking the word being highlighted through a hypertext. For example a jargon that is placed inside a paragraph. In order for them to completely be guided about a word, readers would simply click on it and another window displaying the meaning would appear. Layering means to reveal information in chunks. Writers need to organize their article through grouping their information into small portions. This would make the article appear in a summarized way without sacrificing a detail of an article.

There’s another important new form of web writing according to Stovall (2004). It is the summary, a one, two or three sentenced paragraph that tells what the story is all about. Its goal is to attract readers about their posted article, for them to simply click on the link to be able to read the whole story. Sometimes, they prefer to place the headline itself to present as subtopics in an issue.

Marren(2003b) sees another must- learnt style to tap on web for online journalists. Background information is much needed sometimes by the reader that is why web journalist must write to add depth on their research. These layers could answer a readers “what’s in it for me”, why the story matters to them. E- Mail newsletters and FAQs or the ‘frequently asked questions’ give the readers a background to the topic. Online issues must be more interactive and has human drama to engage readers interactively. Headlines should have informative subheads; it should be in a bold type of text. For effective usage of layering, it is important to use bullets for listing topics, keep the paragraph short and never forget to place related pictures and graphics (to please the readers).

Web Journalists need to update their stories or add another article on a daily basis, to provide the readers information 24/7. Because of this, editors are fully keeping their track on deadlines which are given every hour. Editors might forget to check if their writers are giving credible, reliable and timely information. Marren advises online editors to keep in mind the following: Web readers scan rather than read, set keywords in bold text and use a bulleted list, report in an inverted pyramid style, use simple declarative sentences and lessen the adjectives, make sure reporters use active voice and active verbs, make headlines and subheads useful and self explanatory, and follow the mandates of AP style as well as conventional grammar and punctuation rules.

Citizen Journalism

There was a notion saying that the printed newspaper would one day be vanishing out of the media scene. But that idea was scrapped, there’ll be a big change. In the year 2040, Philip Meyer projected that the last reader will recycle the last printed paper. Blogging is the grassroots phenomenon that reflects widespread disenchantment over the performance of the traditional big media.

Blogs, a coined term from web log was popularized in 2004, when Merriam- Webster declared the word. A blog contains personal webpages and articles that are posted by any individual through the World Wide Web. Blogs are described as a personal website of an individual that contains an online personal journal with reflections placed within the article. Blog was first coined by Jorn Barger in 1997. It was presented as the next iteration of the personal Web pages that accompanied the growth of the Internet. Unlike other websites, blog can easily be updated and readers can have their comments posted directly into the posted article. It fosters a sense of community, this was the start of blogging as a new way of presenting and accessing stories for free.

In June 2006, Technorati tracked 46.2 million bloggers. And this banged the news media; they noticed that bloggers started to beat them. Bloggers posted eyewitness accounts and additional photos of major disasters that make the readers follow their sites and keep track into it. Due to the gradual growth of bloggers, Professional journalists reacted negatively to the phenomenon that has come to be known as “citizen journalism.”

David Shaw of Los Angeles Times viewed bloggers as “journalist wannabes” who do not care much about accuracy (Naughton 2005).

Naughton also observed that journalist still denies about the need of media file sharing and blogging. Animosity between bloggers and journalists arises, and debates about old and new media. But these never meet its end, the debate turned out to be meaningless since these two can also be combined.

The Future of newspapers

Newspapers are released to audiences, with articles containing chosen angles and are screened by the editors. Researches might be from a secondary source. Readers would not have any idea about the whole story, unless they were released the raw interviews but that was never possible. Back then, there was no effective way for this skepticism to find public expression since letter to the editor rarely attract public attention.

Blogging changes all that. It is a conversational way of news stories towards the readers. They can easily reach the writers. Good reporting and intelligent commentaries is passed from blog to blog. Opinion leaders become more tech savvy, when this blog spread like a wildfire. Journalists may also develop their “A-List” of bloggers that they turn for analysis, insights and inside information.

The US courts in 2006 appeals for the Web users to have the same protection against divulging confidential sources as established media organizations. This would allow bloggers and web journalist to protect their sources to avoid forced leaking of information. Gillmor (2004) says that Journalists are getting a number of organizations that have set up blogs of their own. But they forgot, however, to include reader’s involvement, they only managed to have the top- down approach for their reports. Maybe to have ‘legitimate’ information that they got first evenhandedly.

Lastly, Gillmor writes, that the Internet is the most important medium since the printing press. It’s never really a threat to genuine journalism, it is rather an opportunity of growth and for a better journalism. This fortunately helped the media people to disseminate their information way faster than they can ever imagine.


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