Monday, January 12, 2009

New media

I've always been enamored with print journalism (as a previous post attests). The smell of the ink right off the press, the crinkle of newsprint, the inherent trust that I have for the printed word...It all brings me back to my roots. But print is heading out of style, mostly because of the price of upkeep. And what is replacing it? Online journalism, at its finest. What started as a bunch of uploaded articles from the print version, has turned into a dynamic feed of news that offers almost immediate updates and brand new ways of looking at news. From New York Times' dynamic feature on Election Day that showed how the audience was feeling about the election in real time to the Salt Lake Tribune's effort to put news on the map for readers, journalism is evolving at a rapid pace. And in fact, many traditional print journalists are, understandably, jumping ship to online.
The one thing that must be said is that we still need journalism. That much is obvious. But the creators of the new world of online journalism need to tread carefully. We can't fully abandon the principle of print just because we are working in a new medium.
According to Virginia Heffernan, writing her column The Medium in the Dec. 5 issue of the NY Times' Sunday Magazine:
"The third argument says we have to change. We have to develop content that metamorphoses in sync with new ways of experiencing it, disseminating it and monetizing it. This argument concedes that it’s not possible to translate or extend traditional analog content like news reports and soap operas into pixels without fundamentally changing them. So we have to invent new forms. All of the fascinating, particular, sometimes beautiful and already quaint ways of organizing words and images that evolved in the previous centuries — music reviews, fashion spreads, page-one news reports, action movies, late-night talk shows — are designed for a world that no longer exists. They fail to address existing desires, while conscientiously responding to desires people no longer have."

Her argument revolves around the assumption that readers don't want to see the features of a newspaper placed directly online. This argument is fundamentally true. But what we do need is to figure out how to translate the principles of newspapers to online media.
A new study sponsored by the Reynolds Journalism Institute and the Associated Press Managing Editors explores the so-called "online credibility gap" and what readers want from their online news. The report discovered many things, but one thing that is surprising is that many of the people surveyed said that online journalism benefits from the principles of print journalism. According to the report:
"Both the public and editors thought all the basics such as 'verifying information,'
'getting the facts right,' 'correcting mistakes,' and both journalists and users 'taking
responsibility for accuracy' should be practiced to support good journalism online."

Journalists should take note and realize that we can't abandon print journalism principles just because we've gone online. While we can stretch our creative processes and come up with some great ways to present the news, we will never have to worry about not being needed or wanted by the public. Offering accurate, unbiased news will always be considered important.

All that being said, I am now trying to decide whether to continue to pursue a print-heavy career, or to completely immerse myself in online journalism. I'm beginning to lean towards online just because of all the new and creative potential it offers for bringing the news to readers.

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