Monday, July 28, 2008

New media a danger to journalism

A Canadian journalism professor calls it the biggest ethical revolution to hit journalism in 120 years. It's the internet and the new "citizen journalism."

He says:

Here are a few ethical issues coming to a head with the rise of the new media:
* Internet journalism is bringing many more "voices" and viewpoints into the public sphere, which is positive for democracy. But many of those voices are vitriolic, lack credibility or have tiny audiences -- often amounting to a few people just "twittering to each other."

* The rise in citizen journalism can be creative and provide context on trends in society, but much of it is agenda-driven and unreliable. It's leading to a decline of journalistic values, including what Ward calls "pragmatic objectivity." Few online journalists know the difference between emotion-fuelled opinion and analysis, the latter sticking more respectfully to the facts.

* Internet journalism may be adding to the increasing "trivialization" of the news, including in the mainstream media. Sex, violence, celebrities and rants often draw more readers and viewers, and create more online "hits," than serious stories, which have wider but more subtle-to-discern social consequences.

* With newsroom staff declining in the mainstream print and broadcast media, fewer resources are available to mount investigative examinations of important, complex developments, including political and economic policy, organized crime, seniors centre standards and environmental degradation. Online media outlets typically cannot afford such investigations.

There's more about Stephen Ward, outgoing head of the University of British Columbia's journalism school, in the Vancouver Sun.

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