Democratizing the News Media: New Technologies May Be Changing Journalism - but Will They Also Make It Easier to Participate?

Article excerpt

New Technologies May Be Changing Journalism -- But

Will They Also Make It Easier to Participate?

Now that enormous quantities of raw information

are available to anyone with a

computer and a phone line, questions

arise not only about the role of journalists

and journalism educators, but also about whether

people of color will be an integral part of the

information superhighway.

At the recently concluded National Association

of Hispanic journalist's (NAHJ) Conference in

Chicago, the focus was on new technologies

and their impact on the journalism profession. The

conference was titled: "Welcome, Move Ahead. The

Future is Here." Its focus was on the need for

journalists "to be fluent in yet another language, the

language of computers."

Said an organizer, "More and more media

companies continue to venture into new [areas].

Newspapers, television networks and radio

networks are unveiling Web pages faster than you

can say Internet .... On-line, digital, World Wide

Web and cyberspace are fast becoming media

industry buzzwords."

The conference, by its very existence, made

plain what Claremont College's Tomas Rivera

Center (TRC) and other think tanks have warned

about: a technological gap exists between

communities, color and mainstream society. As if to

buttress this assertion, very few Latino information

and technology companies participated in

the conference.

Further Separation?

In a report last year on Latinos and the

information superhighway, TRC warned: "While

technology has the potential to support democratic

principles, without a guiding social contract the

highway may further separate our already

segmented society."

Henry Ingle, chairman of the communications

department at the University of Texas at El Paso

and vice president of technological planning,

worries that this gap between the information

"haves" and "have-nots" will also affect schools of

journalism. While he believes the role of journalists

is becoming more important in the information age,

he is not so sure that schools of journalism will be

able to keep up with the technological demands.

"The advances in technology will require journalists to do more

critical analysis, more in-depth stories," says Ingle. "It will require them

to go deeper into their stories. As a result [of the information

explosion], journalism and journalists will become much more

important."

But, beyond that fact, Ingle says, "The Internet is not mass

technology. It's a personal technology. People go to the Internet as

individuals, not en masse."

Rising to the Challenge

Through the use of fiber optics, the Internet will eventually combine

with cable television (with up to 500 channels), and access will be much

faster. Although there is an abundance of information on the Internet,

someone still has to verify and corroborate the information.

Says Ingle: "Someone has to check references [and] original

sources ... multiple sources become more important. Someone still has to

check the accuracy of the facts. Computers don't have superpowers."

In light of this,

says Ingle, the

biggest question

facing schools of

journalism is, Who

will train future

journalists in both

in-depth analysis

and the new

technologies?

Currently, he says,

journalists aren't

trained in in-depth

analysis. For that

reason, Ingle is

pushing for a new

approach to

educating

journalists. …