Sunday, December 1, 2013

Online News on the Rise

Taylor Petras

The Internet as a News Medium:                                             Photo Courtesy: Time Tech

Since the explosion of the Internet in the early 90s, the journalism industry has been experimenting with ways to utilize this technological tool. Many news outlets, including broadcast and print, use their original medium of TV, radio, newspapers, or magazines as well as an online site for their stories.

However, some new startup news outlets are taking to the Internet as their main medium. For example, AOL’s Patch has quickly taken off in the past three years, with now over 800 sites. The news operation covers everything about a particular area of local news including crime, sports, politics, schools and much more.

Prior to reading the "Hyperlocal Heroesarticle, I was aware of Patch because they cover the townships of my high school district. In the summer, I recall searching the Internet for more information about a local high school hockey hazing story I had heard about while working at my internship. Patch was reporting on it as well. They provided both video as well as a detailed report with quotes from the local police.

While this hyperlocal content provides creditable information, many online readers are skeptical about the material some online news outlets are providing. Patch also allows comments from those who are Patch members. However, this free speech of commenting has had some other outlets change their commenting policies.

Issues with the Internet:

The freedom of speech is always a delicate subject in the journalism industry, not just for reporters, but for readers and viewers as well. Many news organizations claim they want to “create a dialogue or discussion” with their audience members.

However, they are finding that the Internet has allowed the audience to hide behind a computer screen and say whatever they want, which is sometime hurtful, obscene and derogatory comments.

Some online news outlets are now requiring commenters to sign in through their Facebook account in order to post something. While this helps to eliminate offensive posts, it also creates the opposite affect of many outlets' main goal -- to allow conversation. This Facebook restriction has caused many audience members to not engage in the online conversation due to the connection with their real name. 

Internet Advantages:

I personally believe that using the Internet as a medium for news outlets has more benefits than it does disadvantages. These small start-up news organizations, like Baristanet, the Ann Arbor Chronicle and West SeattleBlog, would struggle to provide a daily or even weekly print publication. The Internet allows them to generate multiple stories and content for a more reasonable price.

They are also able to reach out to their audience easier, as the Internet is taking over as viewer’s first source of information. These hyperlocal websites allow their audience to truly get involved and hold a conversation. They allow viewers to post videos and pictures of events happening in their area, as well as a comment section to allow an open discussion with other residents in their community.

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