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Online Journalism

reflections on a changing medium

Tag Archives: Richard Craig

In this chapter, Richard Craig talks about how journalists are straying from the traditonal methods of news-reporting and varying their writing styles to fit the Web. Craig uses the phrase “way-new journalism” as coined by Josh Quittner, an editor, columnist, and former Wired staff writer. Way-new journalism is an updated take on jounalism, as opposed to “The New Journalism” of people like Truman Capote and Hunter S. Thompson that Tom Wolfe wrote about in the 1970s. This journalism isn’t just new, it’s way-new. It’s grounded in cyberspace, chock full of hypertext, and painted in pixels. With the new design and format options that the Web offers news outlets, journalism’s medium is undergoing an enormous transformation. It’s up to the journalists who produce the content for the newly developing medium to make sure that the message is customized to that medium.

For example, with so many tools at their disposal, online journalists must now decide how to present the news:

  • what should be represented photographically?
  • what should be represented graphically?
  • what should be represented in print?
  • what should be represented in video?
  • what should be represented using a slideshow?
  • what should be represented using an audio clip?

In order to make informed decsions about these things, it is important for journalists to be consumers of news as well as producers. To have experience with these different channels of news is to know something about the useability of them. Producers who are able to be critical consumers of the media are at an advantage.

Craig writes about the difference in language usage between print and online journalism.  I definitely find that it is true that the language, tone, and mood of most online journalism is more casual, off-beat and accessible. This may be because of the publish-then-filter idea. More news sources (from large news outlets like The Times to bloggers) are generating news faster, taking advantage of the fact that news reporting has become a process. Once a story is posted, it is not necessarily the final product. It can be altered or re-written accordingly once more information is uncovered. Another reason for this change in online journalism might deal with the degree of interaction that is built into the interfaces on which much of the news is displayed. News sources must use more colloquial, opinionated writing tactics in order to make the news more like a conversation than a one to many report. In order to capture and hold the interest of the public they successfully invite them into the conversation, encouraging active replies  through comments, trackbacks and so on (rather than the op-ed. page or the “letters to the editor” section). In this way, the nature of journalism is changing based on the social communication tools that are available to us.

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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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