ICOM 817 Transnational Communication
How does electronic journalism differ from traditional journalism?
Going online - news communication in transition.
Globalisation describes the integrational process of growing interdependence and the worldwide flow of ideas, goods, capital and people across national borders (Meyer 2007, p. 262). From an economic point of view globalisation refers to the emergence of one single world market transcending national boundaries; international production and transactions render territorial location meaningless (Scholte 2006, p. 602-608). Due to the advent of new communication technology, in particular the internet since the 1990s, information and news are accessible online 24 hours a day and all around the globe (Aronson 2006, pp. 622-625). Accordingly, this essay will argue that this new form of news delivery influences traditional journalism and changes the mode of communication with audiences. After a brief examination of journalism, the paper will take a closer look at online news and globalisation, before turning to the current development of online news.
Journalism is a form of communication to transmit information to the public (Carey 1989). This could happen through elite experts interpreting the news (Lippman 1922), or as a process of interaction between journalists, citizens and experts in particular fields (Dewey 1927). Both conceptions eventually conclude that “the primary purpose of journalism is to provide citizens with the information they need to be free and self-governing” (Kovach & Rosenstiel. 2001, p. 17). Thereby, journalistic work is to report “stories that tell accurately and impartially about reality that exists independently from these stories and outside of the journalistic institutions” (Dahlgren 2001, p. 78). Accordingly Dasselaar (2006, p. 46) states that “journalism is truth seeking storytelling aimed at citizens, which is editorially independent”. The generation of a ‘public sphere’ enables citizens who have no individual influence on governing powers, to discuss public affairs (Habermas 1989). Even though the role of the media “in providing information, analysis, forums for debate and a shared civic culture is beyond dispute” (Dahlgren 2001, pp. 64-65), journalism is also something else.
Despite this definitions describing journalism as the ‘watchdog’ of democracy, the primary purpose of the free press as a business is to make profit (Scott 2005, p. 90). Therefore, the choice of news-worthy stories made by traditional media is driven by potential interests of the audience. The more copies of a printed newspaper are sold, the more profit is made; not primarily because of the direct sales, but because of advertising revenues (Scott 2005, p. 94). Since the costs of establishing news networks and producing media are enormous, “news has traditionally functioned as a natural monopoly” for big corporations (Scott 2005, p. 94). Moreover, most news outlets operate on a local level in order to define its audience for their advertising clients. Even national TV shows or newspapers are bound to a certain region defined by language or area of coverage.
News going online
Since the global spread of new media and the possibility to connect to the world via the internet, the character of the ‘news landscape’ is in transition. New technology has enabled information to be published instantly. Online news sites have the ability to update its content as often as the size of the staff allows (Thurman 2007). Consequently, there is no reason for customers to wait for the newspaper to be printed, all news are accessible in the internet before paper copies are available. Since the introduction of the internet has sped up the news process, journalist spend more time in front of their computer instead of investigating stories in personal and the verification of stories is far more difficult than before (Garrison 2000). Additionally, “publishing the news on the web costs roughly half of delivering print copy” and far less personnel is necessary to maintain an online news site than to publish paper news (Harper 1998, p. 70). On the other hand, these “low production costs have inspired millions to self-publish and millions more to read alternative content outside the mainstream” (Scott 2005, p. 92). Even though fewer customers buy print copies, they do not automatically resort to the online version of the same newspaper, but to various news outlets.