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The contemporary media system of on-line journalism is defined both by technological advances and the actual news content - editorial material and advertisting. With the Internet, news has developed to be a public goods production, without the temporal and spatial bounds of traditional print media. However, the economic issue of earning revenue through advertisements, limits online newspapers from serving international readership to as far as their geographical market extends. Also, the global circulation of news is imbalanced because Internet is more accessible to high-income families, journalists are unevenly distributed around the world, and 'proximity' - one of Melvin Mencher's seven criteria for judging newsworthiness - leads to parochialism, domains of inclusion and exclusion, and inaccurate representations of along with relative lack of interest in countries less dominant than Western culture. Online journalism, as a global communication system, with unique features that increase interactivity, convergence, and accessibility, is distinct from traditional, nationally organized print and broadcasting. Its coverage area and target audience however, can not be considered global, as news sites take advantage of the Internet's temporal expansion possibilities more so than spatial expansion.
- GASHER, Mike. "Paper Routes: The Geography of News in Digital Times", Evolution, Innovation, Communication, and the Future, November 2002, online at: http://www.er.uqam.ca/nobel/gricis/actes/panam/Gasher.pdf. Consulted on September 14, 2009.
- 3With the Information Revolution, the popularization of the Internet and its subsequent establishment of online journalism is less of a revolution than an evolutionary elaboration on the original telegraph's work (Gasher 2002, 3).
How can on-line journalism be placed in the evolution of print, and in the evolution of the functions of the media?
In the continual evolution of print, driven by both cultural and technological advancements, online journalism is a product of the development of computer networking, and the popularization of Internet and audience-generated media. The publication of online news - any news that is distributed via the Internet be it through blogs or newspaper sites - co-exists with and complements, rather than overshadows traditional print material, despite it's contribution to growing contemporary trends such as in the concept of globalized information and in changing societal functions of media. Online journalism is affected by the societal changes caused by the Internet acting as a powerful surveillance tool, allowing for active interpretation and correlation, and allowing ordinary members of society to publish and distribute information.
Print media has evolved alongside technological advances, from carvings on stone in ancient times, to printed books during the Industrial Revolution, to telegrams after the introduction of electric telegraphy. The invention of the telegraph initiated the concept of a "wired world" (Crowley and Heyer 2007, 120) and the radical separation of the message from its messenger (Gasher 2002,
In the digital age, the Internet's accessibility and vast array of technological possibilities and resources, has shaped the profession of journalism through the introduction of online publishing. As online journalism continues to grow, discussion of the issue regarding the decline of traditional print media often arises. These worries are in vain however, because as McLuhan's theory states, the message changes with the medium; print media and online media, although presenting similar content, each interacts with its audience in specialized ways. Print newspapers are associated with a professional detachment, and many trust and rely on print staff's trained news judgement and journalistic integrity. Print newspapers are also associated with tradition and nostaligic aspects. Online journalism on the other hand, provides increased interactivity, personalization, and convergence with other media.
Looking at the principles outlined by Roger Fidler in Mediamorphosis, it is evident that new media emerge gradually through developments made on older media, as opposed to arising "spontaneously and indepedantly" and therefore, older, more established media do not die with the introduction of new media. They instead continue to evolve and adapt to co-exist with new technologies. (Fidler 1997, 23)
As print media continues to evolve, contemporary trends point toward a growth of public or community journalism. Mark Deuze (1999) argues that community-focused service should be the perceived goal for any accomplished online journalist; online news sites should not only provide information, but also utilize the interactive and personalizing aspects of Internet communication, striving to create a sense of community, be it a virtual or geographic one.
As Marshall McLuhan theorized, societal functions are determined by technological environments (Lister, 2003) and online journalism contributes to the Internet's modifications of the functions of media. In an online universe, the public is given the means to "actively seek out, interpret and correlate information" (Straubhaar et. al 2009, 51) as opposed to waiting for older media to selectively package and distribute it. Although the classic four functions of the media continue to stay relevant in terms of electronic publishing, there are changes in the application of, and audience-involvement within, these functions.
With features such as hypertext links, archiving, search engines, and the tabular, scattered layout most news-related sites and blogs tend to have, society now has a surveillance tool which provides convenient and quick access to information on a vast array of topics on a personal, community, local, national, and global scale. The public has gained the ability to actively search about topics of interest instead of passively waiting for selected information to be presented to them, as was the case with older media. With surveillance becoming more of an active and individualized tool, the function of values transmission through media also became more personalized and varied. With the Internet, just about anyone with access to computer networking has the ability to express their values and ideas through online journal posts. The growth of audience-involvement in the production and distribution of media has caused professional media corporation industries and corporations to be much less dominant than they once were.
Interpretation of information presented through online journalism have become more publicized through the availability of discussion platforms and the ability to post comments directly on news articles, as well as posting personal opinions on external sites such as social networking sites, twitter, or blogs. With the increased popularity of online journalism and relatively diminished popularity of traditional print media, the interpretation of information is changing from a linear thought process to a networked thought process. Online reading, due to its connectivity with the World Wide Web through hypertext links and tabular features, involves a more scattered thought process where readers often read in fragments, scan webpages as opposed to reading them, and browse several sites in a short amount of time, often abandoning the site they originally started off from for newer ones found through a network of links.
As for entertainment, online journalism in its contribution to the spread of the formation of virtual communities, makes journalism a social and interactive experience. With the society becoming more and more consumed in the search for entertainment, online news sites differ from their traditional print counterparts by adding audience-related features and striving to create communities within their sites.
Prominent characteristic aspects of online journalism involves interactivity, personalization - or, individualization - and convergence (Deuze 1999, 373). This has both positive and negative effects on culture, providing a powerful surveillance tool, and convenient access to a vast array of information and others' interpretations of that information, while at the same time, leading to scattered thought processes where the mind is distracted through hypertextual links and an overload of entertainment possibilities. Online journalism is a contemporary media system, evolved as a result of print media entering the Information Age. It fits into Fidler's idea of Mediamorphosis, and although it contributes to rising trends in the globalized spread of information and growth of public or community journalism, it continues to co-exist with traditional print media, which will not cease to exist anytime soon because it provides its own specialized features and environment.
DEUZE, Mark (1999). "Journalism and the Web", International Communication Gazette, n° 61, p.373-390.
David CROWLEY and Paul HEYER (2007). Communication in History: Technology, Culture, and Society. USA, Pearson Education Inc.
GASHER, Mike. "Paper Routes: The Geography of News in Digital Times", Evolution, Innovation, Communication, and the Future, November 2002, online at: http://www.er.uqam.ca/nobel/gricis/actes/panam/Gasher.pdf. Consulted on September 14, 2009.
Joseph STRAUBHAAR, Robert LaROSE, Lucinda DAVENPORT (2009). Media Now: Understanding Media, Culture, and Technology. Enhanced 6th Edition. Boston, Wadsworth/Cengage Learning.
Martin LISTER (2003). New Media: A Critical Introduction. New York, Routledge.
Roger FIDLER (1997). Mediamorphosis: Understanding New Media. California, Pine Forge Press.