Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Showdown of the Century: Web vs Print Journalism

Sit back and think about the websites you visit everyday. The New York Times Online. The Drudge Report. The Connecticut Post Online. These three websites are examples of what can be generalized as web journalism as they possess all the necessary qualities listed in James Glen Stovall’s book, Web Journalism: Practice and Promise of a New Medium.

In the first three chapters of the book, Stovall describes the positive and negative differences between news media and how it has changed over the years. He cites the top four advantages in which Internet news has over Print News is:

Immediacy – being able to receive the latest news without having to wait for tomorrow’s edition

Flexibility – ability to incorporate different video and audio clips to accompany the piece

– no longer is an article limited to having only one or two images or news hole to fit as the Internet has a seemingly unlimited amount of space

– consumers of the news can interact with a website. One real example in which Stovall talked about is an online game showcasing the differences between the old and new strikezones in Major League Baseball.

But digital news has its disadvantages, too, as resources can prove to be an obstacle. Many websites do not have the manpower necessary to carry its own dedicated online staff so it shovels news from its print edition onto their website.

For those who do not know, Stovall defines on page 16 that shovelware is “the practice of simply shifting content produced by the organization for another medium (newspaper, radio, or television) to the website with little or no change.” It’s done in order to give the company a presence on the Internet while the news consumers are the ones who get screwed due to the high degree of redundancy.

From the rise of radio, to the emergence of moving imagery on television, and now to electronic text on a computer screen, newspapers are now doing everything it can to preserve its livelihood. However, digital news should be seen more as an evolvement of print news rather than its murderer as they share almost all of the same fundamental writing qualities:

– how many people does the news story involve?

– A clashing between two or more parties always makes for an interesting read.

– Viability of the news; how truly important is this piece of news?

– The number of recognizable people involved in the story such as a celebrity or well-known politician.

– Out of the ordinary stuff that happens adds a different spice onto the story.

– how close the story happens to your home (ex: a fire that burns a house down in California isn’t as interesting to a Connecticut reader as it is to someone who lives in California).

– news that happened recently is worthy of being written about.

One local example of a news organization which has more than a simple online presence is the Fairfield MirrorFairfield University’s independent student newspaper. They release a few online exclusive articles on most Mondays and Thursdays, as well as their print edition every Thursday. The website actually receives more about three times the amount of hits than the newspaper does with hard copies being picked up.

Although print news is currently able to coincide with digital news, don’t be surprised if news becomes fully electronic. Already are many businessmen loading the daily news onto their Palm Pilots and cellphones, or picking up the news on an audio CD (the San Francisco Chronicle, for example) with someone narrating the top stories. That is just step one towards a true paperless society.


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