Academic journal article Newspaper Research Journal

How Six Online Newspapers Use Web Technologies

Academic journal article Newspaper Research Journal

How Six Online Newspapers Use Web Technologies

Article excerpt

Observers have proclaimed the Internet to be the future of communication. Katz, for example, believed that the future of journalism is found on the Internet and that online news will one day become mainstream journalism. "The [World Wide] Web is transforming culture, it is transforming language, transforming information and we're seeing this in very dramatic and measurable ways, which some liken to the invention of movable type."(1) He noted that the old model of a few people providing information to many is "breaking down" in favor of many providing to many. Rules are being rewritten and the news media are being transformed. The way in which news organizations relate and interact with their audiences is also in transition.(2)

What does this fundamental shift in communication mean to journalism? How are journalists using these new network tools to reach audiences? In recent years, news media have flocked to the Web. The number of newspapers in the United States offering online editions has grown rapidly. One study reported online editions had increased from 745 in July 1996 to 2,059 a year later.(3) The amount of change that has occurred in online newspapers has been significant. One observable shift has been toward increasing original news reporting by online news site staffs. Journalists are less likely to serve as traditional information gatekeepers. Users have larger amounts of information and a wider range of sources upon which to draw.(4)

The role of many online newspapers has yet to be defined. In some cases, online editions are not much more than electronic versions of the parent newspaper. Some others are a hybrid of printed newspaper and original content. Some online news sites contain large amounts of original content created by separate staffs. Sources of news and information are being widened to meet the needs. At least one journalist has argued that online newspapers should think of themselves as full-service independent Web sites. He argued that sites should work with 24-hour deadlines and update content on a frequent and regular basis.(5)

A key content issue has been whether newspaper Web sites are considered part of the print edition or a separate and competing medium.(6) Similar questions about the role of the print medium arose when newspapers competed against and developed their own radio stations in the 1920s and again with television stations in the 1950s. While the heart of the competition is advertising dollars, news content is also a concern in the face of any developing medium.(7) Commercial media influences, such as those by online newspapers, point to a "colonization" metaphor describing the Internet instead of the commonly described "community."(8) The ideals of democratic community building on the Internet, they offered, are resisted by online newspapers as they "stake out" territories by discouraging access to other sites. Peng, Tham and Xiaoming found differing online objectives in online newspapers, but online newspapers were similar in the goals of seeking additional readers, increasing revenue and promoting the print edition.(9) South recently observed that online newspaper staffs often must urge their print colleagues to think about the needs of online sites.(10) For example, print reporters and editors do not usually gather audio or video for the print editions, but will assist their online counterparts.

Many newspapers with Web sites have not found the right online model. The Buffalo News, The Clarion-Ledger and The Honolulu Advertiser did not have sites with daily news content as recently as summer 1999.(11) The rapidly evolving state of online news can be characterized by considerable experimentation with content, technologies and distribution. Furthermore, the results are frequent changes and often radical site redesigns. Online newspapers are at an important stage of media convergence. Online newspapers still have many ties to traditional print newspapers, but they also have the potential to use many new features from the world of mixed-media digital communication. …

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