Kramer, Joel. "Lessons I’ve learned after a year running MinnPost." Nieman Journalism Lab. March 19, 2009.
This anecdotal article by Joel Kramer provides insight into some of the challenges to professional online journalism. His brief and readable story of running the online news site, MinnStar, addresses issues such as user commentary, video integration, and start-up costs.
Kramer's most important point for my thesis is his process of screening user commentary with volunteer moderators. As he puts it, "We took plenty of heat from web-savvy readers for this decision. But as readers have watched the quality of comment on respected sites that don’t require real names, many are now grateful for our approach. Recently we published our 7,000th comment. Some sites with looser standards appear to be reconsidering their no-holds-barred policies." This MinnStar policy may or may not be forward thinking, but it is an example of one version of user interaction with news sites. MinnStar doesn't use citizen journalism the way, say, TalkingPointsMemo, does, but according to Kramer, they are exploring possibilities. This demonstrates the lack of an industry standard for harnessing citizen journalists, but emphasizes the growing awareness for policies and methods for intertwining professional quality journalism and usergenerated content.
Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism. "The State of the News Media: an annual report on american journalism."
This annual report from the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism reports on the state of online jornalism. With substantial charts and research, the overview is an accurate discussion of both where many news organizations stand currently and where they may be (and some are) heading in the furture. The report's thorough treatment of both online content and economic viability address both the demands of the public and the needs of news reporting organizations.
The report provides valuable support for my thesis with its statistic and solid reporting. One particularly valuable section is the survey on "Top Issues in Online Media vs. Media Over All." The chart demonstrates that though the top three news story subjects (election, U.S. economy, Iraq War) are mirrored between online and all media, beyond that the statistics vary. Online, users have more say regarding which issues are covered, it is easy to track exactly which stories are most read, most shared, most commented on; in a print newspaper, information is much more general. This chart exposes how media overall may not be addressing the issues that are actually of most interest to their constituents. And, of interest to my thesis, it supports the idea that as more media incorporates methods for users to share and comment and contribute to media stories, the gap between stories that interest users and ones that do not interest them will widen as sites like Digg bring user approved content back to the top over and over, while stories of no interest to readers die after one day (or hour) on the front page.
European Publishers Council. "Hamburg Declaration Regarding Intellectual Property Rights." Berlin: European Publishers Council. June 25, 2009.
This brief statement from the European Publishers Council (EPC) argues for "urgent improvements in the protection of intellectual property on the Internet." Without providing an answer to the problem or even asserting a path toward improvement of the situation, the statement simply places the onus of blame on sites that index their content. Meanwhile, the statement applauds national and internation governments for their efforts to protect international property.
Practically speaking, this statement is fairly ineffectual. Google's response has been essentially, "Go ahead and stop us from indexing your content" – a response that clearly demonstrates how vital news aggregation is to online media. Without offering a solution that will help users find content online while also crediting the correct sources, the EPC doesn't have much weight to throw around. This statement, instead, serves as a thermometer of the rising tension between investigative journalists and news aggregation websites.
Alterman, Eric. "The News Business: Out of Print: The death and life of the American newspaper." The New Yorker. March 31, 2008.
In this article, Alterman discusses the advantages, disadvantages, history, debates, and differing opinions concerning the migration of journalism from print to the internet. He begins by laying the scene, briefly calling on the history of print journalism while discussing current trends and the current bleak state of affairs for print media. The bulk of the article outlines the differences – good and bad – between internet blogging and news aggregation sites and traditional newsroom journalism. Alterman’s main argument centers around the Huffington Post, a political news and gossip website, as an example of the future of journalism. Central to Alterman’s discussion is the role of the reader/consumer of news. Using the contrast between Walter Lippmann and John Dewey's differing ideas of idylic political journalism, Alterman argues that the Internet is the swing from Lippmannesque (boys club, top down media) to Deweyish (public opinion driven, community contribution media) philosophies of journalism. Alterman’s prognosis is gloomy, particularly since he dwells on the fact that many online news sites prefer to aggregate news from print media, heresay and user commentary rather than funding their own investigative journalism.
Alterman’s argument addresses the central theme of my thesis: the difference between traditional journalism and internet-generation journalism. His discussion of 'the mullet strategy' (where websites like The Huffington Post keep a closely edited front page but allow users to fill their subpages with unedited commentary and opinion), is an excellent analysis of how media companies might control but still incorporate public contribtions. Alterman's article also raises an important issue concerning the future of journalism: that The Huffington Post flags stories from other news sources but "shoulders none of the costs" of investigating and writing the story. This issue is indeed central to the discussion, but Alterman's argument falters when he claims that The Huffington Post's hiring of Thomas Edsall, a forty-year veteran of The Washington Post, as its political editor is a "rare" example. For a foward-looking article such as this, Alterman could be expected to see that such hirings might very quickly become industry standard. And as print journalism aficionados move toward 'citizen journalism' sites, their presence will provide credibility and professionalism for the front page, and probably beyond.
McLeary, Paul. "How TalkingPointsMemo Beat the Big Boys on the U.S. Attorney Story." Columbia Journalism Review. March 15, 2007.
This article by Paul McLeary overviews the role the news and gossip website TalkingPointsMemo played in breaking a news story about illegal firings of U.S. Attorneys. The article focuses on the ability of TalkingPointsMemo to bring a story to light in a different way than was possible for traditional journalists. TalkingPointsMemo, McLeary points out, harnessed their online sources effectively to tap a "variety of sources that had been largely untapped by the mainstream press" and to break the story before most traditional press rooms.
The method of journalism outlined by McLeary serves as an example of a possible model for future journalism. TalkingPointsMemo's success with the U.S. Attorney story exemplifies a hybrid method of journalism wherein 'citizen journalism' is combined with an editorial process to create reliable stories quickly and effectively. McLeary points out that sites like TalkingPointsMemo that display a "model of reporting [that] ... straddl[es] the divide between old school shoe-leather reporting and the more aggregate method of Web reporting" are rare, but if the effectiveness continues, the scarcity won't last long.
Victor Pickard, Josh Stearns & Craig Aaron. "Saving the News: Toward a National Journalism Strategy." May 12, 2009. www.freepress.net.
This article thoroughly outlines the state of affairs of journalism and news in America today and offers a comprehensive summary of most of the possible options for moving forward successfully. They examine the struggles of American newspapers today – in dealing with the economic downturn, internet competition and mistrust of the media. The authors address options as typical as media consolidation, the ‘do nothing’ approach and foundation support, and as creative as online micropayment, postal and print subsidies, municipal ownership and prepackaged bankruptcies. They argue that there is not a single ‘right’ answer that will solve the problems facing journalism today, but that a strategic national solution is necessary to protect the ‘lifeblood of democracy,’ journalism.
The authors' arguments are all firmly in favor of journalism, adamantly arguing that the practice is necessary to American democracy and that a natioanl strategy is necessary to preserve the practice. Their argument that investigative journalism is a cut above and better than opinion and commentary on the internet is certainly accurate, but they do not allow that opinion, commentary, and user interaction with news can enhance, support, and alter journalism significantly (and certainly sometimes for the better). It does not allow for journalism to morph with the changing media, for investigative journalism to find new methods of research and discovery just as it is finding new methods of publication. But that aside, the methods discussed are both clear, comprehensive, and realistic. Anyone striving to protect and preserve traditional journalism techniques should certainly read this article for an overview of the options.