Saturday, 22 October 2011

The survival of investigative journalism.

Although convergent journalism is forcing journalists to create content faster and adhere to stricter deadlines, investigative journalism will still continue to hold its place in the world of media.
Online journalism requires stories to be lodged as fast as possible in competition with other news outlets, but investigative journalism pursues stories which are aimed at the people and places behind the headline news and often have a longer shelf life.
According to Lieb (2002 p. 43):
Some journalists make it a habit to follow up on stories they have covered in the past, and some news organizations have institutionalized these kinds of stories with regular follow-up features.
Although the first assumption can be that investigative journalism is about finding scandals and conspiracies and award worthy stories, it is also about pursuing new angles on previously done stories, giving them an edge or showing a deeper and more colourful side to them.
Investigative journalism may even be aided by the internet, according to an article in The Guardian which points out how information and sources can be gathered a lot faster for an in depth piece using social media.

Lieb, T 2009, All the news: writing and reporting for convergent media, Pearson Education Inc, New York.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Ethical and legal issues in convergent journalism.

With online journalism forcing reporters into a race against a continuous deadline, many news sites try and get news stories, at least in brief, up on their sites as fast as possible. This often leads to breakdowns in communication with sources, incorrect reporting and increased chance of legal & ethical issues.

When writing any story, no matter whether it's in brief or a deeply researched feature story, journalists need to make sure they adhere to the MEAA Code of Ethics. Section one is particularly relevant to reporters who sacrifice accuracy for getting the story out as fast as possible:
Report and interpret honestly, striving for accuracy, fairness and disclosure of all essential facts.  Do not suppress relevant available facts, or give distorting emphasis.  Do your utmost  to give a fair opportunity for reply.
With the speed now required when uploading information to the world wide web, the onus is now on the reporter to check for accuracy, legality and ethical issues.

According to Wilkinson, Grant & Fisher, reporters who have previously had a phalanx of editors to check their work are now often finding themselves forced to do their own editing as they rush to file their stories online (2009, p. 68)


Wilkinson, JS, Grant, AE & Fisher, DJ 2009, Principles of Convergent Journalism, Oxford University Press, New York USA.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Issues in reporting for a global audience

Reporting for a global audience can be a steep learning curve for an inexperienced journalist. Unlike traditional media which usually limits the consumer to one or two news sources at a time, online news needs to grab the attention immediately or lose viewer to a competitor. Never has finding a different news source been easier, and catching the attention of a reader immediately been so paramount.

A major issue when reporting for a global audience involves mistranslation and different uses of slang terms that vary from country to country. Depending on an online translation tool, like a news outlet in Norway, can result in a simple sentence such as "mass killing" turning into "mass killing of vermin". Many news sites picked up English translations of the article, resulting in red faces but fortunately no long lasting ill effects.

Another major issue when reporting information that can be viewed around the world, involves the legal and ethical aspects. Recently France banned the promotion of Twitter and Facebook in all national media outlets, basing the ruling on the theory that this provided advertising for the two online monopolies. Although this is an extreme measure, it's important to remember that something that may be legally allowed in one country may be cause for legal action in another.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Making stories relevant to an online audience.

As more and more people access up to date news through the internet, journalists must adapt their stories to maintain the interest of a global audience. This audience is aware that there are many other news sources available to them, so online stories must both attract and keep the audience's attention.
Lieb (2009, p127-8) says that "the online reader has virtually no investment in most news sites and may move to another site in an instant."
One way to keep a reader interested is to allow interaction with the article - this allows the reader to have an investment in the page, whether it be through comments, polls or other interactive mediums. Some leading news sites, such as the Courier Mail, allow reader comments which often lead to continued reader interaction and debate with other readers.
Short, easy to navigate stories are also an important part of maintaining reader interest. Some websites limit their websites to 250-500 words and help readers navigate longer stories using appropriate headlines, blurbs and subheads according to Lieb (2009, 129).

Lieb, T 2009, All the news: writing and reporting for convergent media, Pearson Education Inc, New York, US. Chapter 7: 'Writing the Basic Online Story', p.127-129

Thursday, 25 August 2011

What constitutes a credible source?

Doing research, looking for answers and guides on everything from home maintenance through to weight loss have because easy to find using an internet search engine. However, this abundance of information does not necessarily make writing a news story any easier. Search results can give a journalist unique tips and leads, but often the information available is based on opinion and not fact.

Because of the lack of credibility of much of the information online, it's important that all sources be checked thoroughly before they are used in a story. This rule applies to both offline and online sources and shouldn't be changed based merely on the format and medium used for the story.

According to the Online Journalism Blog, there are three main parts to identifying a credible online source. Content, which includes how realistic the story sounds, as well as how up to date the information is: context, where the information was used and how well you know and trust the source: and coding, using checks such as domain extensions (.edu and .gov) as well as website age and registration information using databases such as the whois search.

A good rule to stick to when verifying online sources for use in an article, is to find three authority sites who refer to the source in question. Official government and education sites, as well as sites run by well known real world companies, are a good place to start.

Although many journalists fall into the trap of using a partial source or press release, finding a credible and impartial source that has proven to be credible can often add extra information or view points to a story that other news websites may lack.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Key factors affecting the preparation and delivery of online news.

The story was written by the Rockhampton Morning Bulletin during the flooding in North Queensland before the inland Tsunami and cyclone that were to batter the state later in the month. One of the key facts included in the story read:
30,000 pigs swept away in flood.
According to ABC Media Watch, a correction was printed the next day, explaining that the wording was meant to be 30 sows and pigs. But the damage was done - although in this case there was nothing in the story that could have created a legal issue for the paper, many laughs were enjoyed upon reading the article and correction.

It's not every day that an exclusive story becomes available to the average online news outlet; most stories break fast, with information pouring in and forcing the journalist to sift and then try and present a piece that's unique from all the competition.
With an exclusive story, unless there is extremely time sensitive information, it's often possible to double check key facts and sources. With a story that's already been picked up by every other media outlets, it's often easy for a writer to get sloppy and fail to fully research a story in favour of getting it out before anyone else.
The whole news team must work as a group to ensure accuracy in a story, with the writers and editors all having to do their part to check for errors. 

Thursday, 28 July 2011

What defines news in the online environment?

The introduction of the internet has increased the amount of information available to ordinary people, but not all of this information is necessarily accurate and neither is all the information real news. While traditional journalism was aimed at a small audience based on geographical location or interest, online journalism can reach an almost unlimited audience. This makes the task of the online journalist more difficult because they need to write their stories in ways that maintain the interest of a widely varied audience, while still keeping true to quality journalism based on facts, interviews, resources and maintaining reliability.

Another important aspect of news in the online environment is the fact that although many sites claim that they are news sites, very few in fact are. People with no qualifications and no research other than rumour can easily create their own websites or even post to official looking sites which allow almost anyone to post information and often spread misinformation. No matter how hard search engines, governments and commissions try to combat spam and disinformation on the internet, there will always fake news sites that appear to give the appearance of real news.

It's not all bad however- online news reporting allows the journalist the ability to bring together many different styles of journalism, including video, audio and interactive to involve the audience as never before.

News in the online environment is similar to real world news when defined by impact, how current it is, conflicts,  prominence, timeliness and human interest. Online news differs in the areas of proximity and the unusual. As mentioned above, proximity is almost redundant on the internet because of how easily the news can be accessed. The unusual is now often not unusual, but what is defined on the internet as viral - when something seemingly unknown and uninteresting gains a massive audience through online social media.  Unusual events may often go viral but they are only a small part of viral events - viral events are often far from unusual.

Although news in the online world bears similarities to real world news - the playing field is more even now. This means that to stay at the top, Journalists have to stick to their ethics and learn to adapt and produce at a faster rate than before - and prove that they are in fact the best choice to report the news in a changing world.