Digital Dilemmas: Ethical Issues for Online Media Professionals/Web Journalism: Practice and Promise of a New Medium/Understanding the Web: Social, Political, and Economic Dimensions of the Internet

By Henderson, Bruce | Journalism & Mass Communication Educator, Winter 2005 | Go to article overview

Digital Dilemmas: Ethical Issues for Online Media Professionals/Web Journalism: Practice and Promise of a New Medium/Understanding the Web: Social, Political, and Economic Dimensions of the Internet


Henderson, Bruce, Journalism & Mass Communication Educator


Berkman, Robert I. and Christopher A. Shumway (2003). Digital Dilemmas: Ethical Issues for Online Media Professionals. Ames, IA: Iowa State Press, pp. 386.

Stovall, James Glenn (2004). Web Journalism: Practice and Promise of a New Medium. Boston: Pearson Allyn and Bacon, pp. 230.

Albarran, Alan B. and David H. Goff, eds. (2003). Understanding the Web: Social, Political, and Economic Dimensions of the Internet. Ames, IA: Iowa State Press, pp. 289.

Nearly eleven years after the Guardian first published a newspaper page on the World Wide Web, journalism education is moving beyond issues of software and HTML. These books add support to the notion that new media should no longer be considered new; they have become integrated into the whole of journalism education and research.

While some educators do continue to argue about how or whether to teach software as part of a journalism course, their main argument seems more one of Flash than substance. Digital journalism is about concepts and history; it is about reporting and writing and research; it is about issues beyond software, and these issues have been at the heart of journalism, journalism education, and research for a century.

Digital Dilemmas: Ethical Issues for Online Media Professionals, by Robert I. Berkman and Christopher A. Shumway, puts online ethical questions in a historical journalism perspective. There is a wealth of information on media history and the evolution of codes of journalism ethics, and the book examines issues of privacy, speech, intellectual property, copyright, and the not-so-solid wall between advertising and editorial interests, all aimed at understanding digital othics. The book also provides case studies that pose questions of online ethics. All chapters except the afterword end with critical thinking questions that are ideally suited for discussion in a course online forum.

Although promoted as a book of interest to journalism educators, graduate and undergraduate students, and professional journalists as well as nonjournalistic online publishing professionals, this work is an excellent choice as a textbook for undergraduate courses concerned with journalism ethics in general. The book is a good expression of McLuhan's concept that overy new medium illuminates the media that have preceded it. One problem with attempting to appeal to nonjournalist online professionals is that many in this group are publishing because they distrust traditional media values and institutions. This group isn't likely to find discussions of journalistic values appealing.

The authors note that they have drawn from the works of Ron Smith's Groping for Media Ethics in Journalism (first published in 1983, with a new edition just published in 2003, Iowa State Press), and Richard Johannesen's Ethics in Communication (Waveland Press, 2002), for ethical guidance, but neither of these works concentrates on the Web and Internet. Unlike Groping for Media Ethics, though, Digital Dilemmas shies away from classical philosophical ethics concepts, a conscious choice that might limit a student's range of options when considering modern ethical dilemmas. Those interested in broader and deeper collections of ethical case studies might consider Thinking Clearly: cases in Journalistic Decision-Making (Tom Rosenstiel and Amy S. Mitchell, eds., Columbia University Press, 2003), but they would have to do with only a chapter related to the Internet. Researchers should read Elizabeth A. Buchanan's Readings in Virtual Research Ethics: Issues and Controversies (Information Science Publishing, 2004). Some of the same ethical issues -such as lurking for information in Web discussion groups-are addressed from a journalist's perspective in Digital Dilemmas and from a researcher's perspective in Readings in Virtual Research Ethics.

James Stovall's Web Journalism: Practice and Promise of a New Medium helps integrate digital media into journalism education by concentrating on core values-writing, reporting, and design-without concentrating on changing technologies, software, or coding. …

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