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Online Journalism

reflections on a changing medium

This post is in response to chapter three of Richard Craig’s Online Journalism.

This reading really seemed to highlight something that I discussed in my last post: that, above all, it is important to have a strong foundation of journalistic skills. While Craig describes many ways of using the Internet (search engines, emal lists, news sites, blogs, and Web pages among others) to procure solid story ideas, the rest of this chapter, and Craig’s tips, can be applied to traditional print journalism techniques.

For example, Craig suggests things like seeking out local angles, doing follow-ups and previews, and feature stories that examine and convey the vivid details of a subject. These are standard jounalistic methods of creating story ideas when reporters seems to be running low on hot news stories.

One of the things that Craig briefly discussed as an advantage of using the Internet to track down story ideas was the feedback-friendly aspect.  Here, he talks about things like feedback pages, message boards, chat rooms and polls. These types of interactive spaces allow the consumers room to provide their own input and to have a say in the type of information product that is being delivered to them. Previously, before the Web journalism phenomenon, consumers of news didn’t have this luxury. The news was determined by professional journalists who were were part of a “professional class,” according to Clay Shirky in his book, Here Comes Everybody. The rules of such a class, he says, are determined by the way in which the elite members who all experience the benefits and challenges of the particular profession choose to see the world.

On page 65, Shirky writes:

“In a world where a dozen editors, all belonging to the same professional class, can decide whether to run or kill a national story, information that might be of interest to the general piblic may not be published, not because of a conspiracy but because the editors have a professional boas that is aligned by the similar challenges they face and by the similar tools they use to approach those challenges.”

This is where the importance of Web journalists–especially amateur journalists and bloggers comes in. With more media outlets existing on the Web and more independent voices, the bias that Shirky writes about will not be a limiting factor in news that comsumers will have access to. It is especially important for the increasingly independent, varied pool of Web journalists to utilize the feedback devices that Craig describes in order to avoid this very problem and to report the stories that traditional print media outlets might not see as being things worth covering.

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