ACM - Computers in Entertainment

New Media, Part II: Redefining journalism

By Vineet Kaul

There is a dream that new media technology will not only allow multimedia engagement of a subject, but produce entirely unique interfaces to learn and engage a subject. This is, put simply, a dream for journalism to develop the ability to publish its own applets and software. Where else could journalism go in this digital age, save into the terrain of developing reporting platforms based on the paradigms of the computer itself? New media journalists tell stories by culling, correlating, and displaying information through digital media. It doesn’t replace journalism; it augments it, adding new dimensionality to the work of the journalist, and placing new tools (and challenges) before journalism.

By embracing these tools, and working within digital media, journalism will discover that it is not so much changing as growing. Print reporting will remain a core value without which journalism will be lost (for what would we do with copy and editorial perspective?). Photography, audio, and video will remain important tools for documentation, for how else are we to communicate/preserve the experience of linear reality? No, new media journalism is not an end but a beginning involving distinctive ways of writing and presenting news, conducted in converged newsrooms or wholly outside of conventional newsrooms, funded with innovative sources of revenue, and all this informed by continuously shifting understandings of what constitutes journalism and who is a journalist.


Social Media and Netizens

Sunday night’s breaking news is now being called Twitter’s “CNN moment.” But in reality how does it compare?  Is Twitter ready for the masses? Experts on either side of new media debate whether or not Twitter is indicative of the future of journalism. Twitter’s role in the spread of online dialogue speculating the death of Osama Bin Laden was studied at great depths to better understand when and where news actually surfaces, how it’s validated, and how news travels across the Web and in real life.  Perhaps nothing visualized the power of a single tweet with such dramatic effect as the network graph developed by Social Flow, which is the first social media optimization technology to apply a scientific approach to understanding the real-time value of content.

Today, we are living in digital world where new media technology has changed the world. With its multitude of resources and myriad online tools, the Web affords those who use it the ability to quickly reach many people all over the globe. We can upload our pictures and videos on different websites and share them with others. Even use of mobile phone has become very much popular in our lives. Facebook is one of the most important platforms for social interact between people worldwide. The geographical distances are being replaced with social interactions. This is all because of the revolution of new technology where almost all kinds of people can equally be a part of the global communication. The use of new media technologies has not only influenced the individuals and communities in the developed countries, but also the people of developing countries. More importantly, countries in transition have become part of the global community by using new media technologies, especially the Internet and mobile phones.

The role of the journalist is changing in an age where the old metaphor of gate-keeping no longer applies. Beginning in the late 1990s many journalists had established their own websites to act as shopping windows to their work, and to invite dialogue with their readers [1]. New media has had a liberating effect on journalists. Scholars argue technological trends are conspiring to threaten mainstream quality media in a serious way and there are too many negative pressures for journalism to survive in its current form.  The Internet is rewriting the rules of modern communication. Could the technological revolution further entrench the power of the big media owners? 

Journalists of the 20th century do their work under a series of constraints and influences due to political, economical and professional restrictions, which inevitably affect how much information can be delivered to the public. The Internet has allowed some journalists to be freed from the constraints of traditional publishing.  The computer can be used to aid journalists not replace them [2]. Instead of having to travel to a particular location to do research or file a story, journalists can now use e-mail.  Instead of relying on public officials or press releases the online world has opened up other avenues of information.  Independent expert opinion is quickly produced online and can be used to provide additional meat to a story.  

Blogging, podcasting, and blogging among others have created “netizens,” or Internet users who no longer passively consume media but actively participate in them. Studies have shown that marketers perceive blogs to have the highest value of any social media in driving site traffic, brand awareness, lead generation and sales, as well as improving customer service. Blogs have taken an increasingly prominent role in the world of online journalism.  Blogs offer an interactive form of communication traditional media had been unable to provide.  Blogs have taken advantage of a lack of communication between writer and reader.  Voices that have previously been subdued by old media now have an outlet for their views.  Bloggers also have more freedom by avoiding the defamation and libel laws that print media is subjected to.  Furthermore some bloggers are free of professional obligations, which allow them to be more opinionated in their writing.  The blogosphere is free of editing.  This can be attractive to journalists, but may be detrimental in some cases. Bloggers can broaden coverage of an issue and provide a fresh perspective.  They are now competing against established journalists for the same readers.  This is challenging journalists to maintain their readers and still appeal to a younger audience.

New media are aiding netizens to express themselves freely—a right that had been partly denied to them by the international media. The world is now experiencing global conversations that offer “extraordinary potential for the expression of citizen rights and for communication of human values” [3]. Citizens with access to the Internet in undemocratic states where freedom of speech is limited can now boast of expressing themselves unlimitedly through the new media as they “voice their concerns and share hopes” [3]. In doing so new media enhances democracy.


The Future of Journalism 

The Internet is truly unique and is the fastest-growing communications medium in human history. Previously the broadcast model of having few producers and many consumers was the only way of receiving media.  As media has decentralized users now have direct control of when, what, and with whom they exchange information [4]. The Internet has allowed people to personalize the news they want and have it delivered to them on their computer, mobile device, at home or in the street.  Old media is no longer in control of what people read and how they read it.  As citizen journalism spreads, stories are now told to different audiences in different and interesting ways. Poster believes “desktop broadcasting” or widespread citizen reporting is transgressing the constraints of broadcast oligopolies.  Those with a computer and an Internet connection can tell stories to a mass worldwide audience.  This has shifted the power away from old media and more importantly has hurt their bottom line.

Digital media affects newspaper revenues in three ways. First, digital content has eroded the demand for daily print content, reducing newspaper circulation and the value of newspaper ad space. Second, free online classifieds have virtually eliminated a major newspaper revenue stream. Finally, advertisers in general have moved more of their budgets to online media where real estate is cheaper, targeting is more accurate, and performance metrics are readily available. Each of these trends indicates the conventional newspaper distribution and revenue models are obsolete—they fail to address modern market realities. However, market demand for authoritative, journalistic content remains clear and present. Newspapers can adapt to a predominately digital landscape by evolving into social news organization (SNOs). This leads to great uncertainty among many about how journalism of the future will pan out.  New Media has challenged journalism to reinvent itself.  Is it equipped to do so?  The younger generation now accepts many resources as free, including the news.  News organizations have struggled to convince people to buy news articles online.  In fact the spread of content online has left many journalists struggling to fight plagiarism and the stealing of content. Free media is a notion or idea that has to be handled delicately. Taken out of context, saying everything is public knowledge and the media should be free to print whatever they want would be vacillating.

Traditional media is slow taking on the new media’s characteristic of interactiveness to include contributions from the audience. Television, radio, and print media houses have gone ahead to create websites where they have news, blogs, emails, chartrooms, music and photos, and podcasts of their programs such as BBC and VOA (Voice of America). Technology now allows journalists to cover stories even if they are in different continents.  Digital storage technologies are now powerful and inexpensive.  Such devices are easily linked to the Internet and articles can be uploaded or e-mailed across the globe quite easily.  Video and audio can also be saved and uploaded.  Internet stories are increasingly becoming visually driven utilizing the interactivity of the Web page.  News can now be packaged and repackaged for different audiences [5]. News stories can now be updated throughout the day, especially in regards to breaking news.  Online newspapers are able to constantly update their articles and correct misinformation.  This is a clear advantage over old media, which must publish by a deadline.  Online news is immediate.  Geographic boundaries are becoming increasingly irrelevant.

While some established media owners and professionals have responded to this new “invasion of the audience” with suspicion, skepticism and even derision, others have gladly accepted it and integrated new media into the conventional newsroom. Audiences, readers or subscribers are now empowered by the multiple choices available in the marketplace that are faster at disseminating mews. Add to that the collapse in advertising revenue faced by a large number of media organizations globally, and you have the perfect formula that spells the demise of traditional print. Internet journalism in the form of news websites utilizing multimedia platforms, blogs and citizen journalism are now taking the place of mainstream print media.  These trends show how new technologies and new journalism concepts are being embraced by the mainstream media. However there is a need for traditional media to be cautious in its use of social media; concerns about credibility and ethics are not unfounded. There is always the risk of inaccuracy, deliberate misinformation and spin. As one of the fundamental principles of journalism holds, being right trumps being first. Only organizations that are able to adapt themselves to changing technology, while adhering to the essential principles of journalism, will be able to survive in the future.

Journalism will again become what it was more than a century ago—a form of art. It will be as concerned with truth and beauty as it is with justice. It will no longer speak in the deformed language of balance and objectivity but instead be a conduit for unvarnished moral outrage and passion. It will, like classical theater, be relegated to the margins of society but will endure for the literate and the moral. It will sustain all who seek to live with a conscience in an unconscious age. Journalism will survive, but it will reach a limited audience, as the sparsely attended productions of Aristophanes or Racine in small New York theaters are all that is left of great classical theater. The larger society will be deluged with propaganda, spectacle and entertainment as news. Those who carry the flame of journalism forward will live lives as difficult, financially precarious and outside the mainstream as most classical actors and musicians. However, there will always be a need for journalists, they will just have to work in different ways and under different conditions. New media? New journalism.



[1] McNair, B. Mapping the global public sphere II: Online journalism and the blogosphere. In Cultural Chaos: journalism, news, power in a globalised world. Routledge, London, 2006, 118-134.

[2] Fleming, C. Journalism and new technology. In Investigative Journalism Context and Practice ed. Hugo de Burgh. Routledge, London, 2000, 177-197

[3] Castells, M. The Internet Galaxy: Reflections on the internet, business, and society. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2001, 164.

[4] Poster, M. The Second Media Age. Polity Press: Cambridge, 1995.

[5] Pavlik, J.V. Running the technological gauntlet: Journalism and new media. In The Making of Journalists ed. Hugo de Burgh. Routledge, London, 2005, 245-262.

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