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Immediacy of online news: Journalistic credo under pressure

Immediacy of online news: Journalistic credo under pressure

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Published by Jojo Malig
Immediacy of online news: Journalistic credo under pressure
Immediacy of online news: Journalistic credo under pressure

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Published by: Jojo Malig on Jan 09, 2011
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01/09/2011

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Immediacy of online news: Journalistic credo under pressure
Abstract
Using journalistic normative theory as backdrop, this study tests whether the newscycle of online news differs from that of the traditional paper medium on fourSwedish websites. Further it is investigated if the high speed and continuous flow of information on the Internet has any impact on the quality at online news. Finally it isargued that that the speed of which information is published on the Internet willraise serious questions about the quality, integrity and trustworthiness of the newsproduct. Findings like these could, if commonly found, lead to a debate about and aredefinition of journalism in both online and traditional media.
Introduction
The Internet is increasingly becoming an area for a variety of human enterprises and experiences. With regards to journalism it has been suggested (Deuze & Dimoudi 2002:96) that since 1997there has been a specific form of journalism, online journalism, taking place there. When journalism is moving onto the Internet it also mean a new environment that hasdifferent characteristics than the analogue mediums of communication. This shift in environmenthas triggered a whole new field of research - online or digital journalism - that investigatesdifferences and similarities between online and traditional journalism in many aspects. Amongstthe distinctive characteristics of the digital medium compared to analogue mediums, especially the newspaper, are interactivity, convergence of pictures, moving images, text and sound into onemedium of distribution and, finally, immediacy.
 
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It has been stated (Massey and Levy 1999) that immediacy might be the most definingcharacteristic of online journalism compared to traditional journalism. However, few efforts havebeen made to systematically investigate how immediacy impacts the quality of online news andtheorizing and empirical research is virtually non-existent according to Kopper et.al (2000) andTumber (2001). First it important to stress that even if studies on immediacy show no results whatsoever we must have in mind that this field is relatively new both for scholars and journalistsalike and there can be significant variations from one year to another and between differentcountries.On the basis of empirical evidence is reasonable to assume that at least some of the news ischanging. Anecdotal evidence from Hall (2001:109, 2000:390) suggests that news items arechanging and disappearing from websites. Seib (2001:147) demonstrates that news is adjustedover time. There have been an ‘ad hoc’ study made by Salaverría (2005) on 9/11 where heconcludes that “… these [online] media show an insufficient editorial maturity that occasionally leads them to commit important mistakes in their news reporting”. Mistakes includes that onlinenews was publishing false events without publishing corrections either in the online version ortheir paper medium.There is evidence that supports that immediacy have impact on online journalism but there is,understandably, a scarcity of empirical studies. This paper is an effort to contribute to theempirical understanding of immediacy in online journalism.
Immediacy of online news
The basic concept of immediacy is relatively straightforward. Immediacy means that there is, intheory, virtually no lag between when information is received or created at a news producer and when the information is passed on to the news consumer. This is possible because of two relatedfeatures. First, the information is digital and can easily be moulded continuously. Secondly theinformation is not distributed, as far as the web is concerned, in the traditional meaning of the
 
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 word. Rather than being pushed out to the audience all at the same time, be it once an hour oronce a day on the web, the audience seeks up a database that then presents the information tothe audience. That means that the information never leaves the producer entirely, unless of course someone downloads the website, and the information can therefore be worked oncontinuously.This is possible because different modes or patterns of communication are at work. UsingBoudewijk and van Kaams model (McQuail 2002) over different patterns of communication itcan be argued that in traditional media the dominant form of communication has been one of 
transmission
where the traditional producer dictates
what 
is being presented to the audience and
when
it is being presented.The communication mode describing the situation for websites is labelled
consultative communication
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. This is when the producer of information still is controlling what content isavailable to the audience but to a lesser extent controls when it is being accessed. Thiscommunication pattern has a lot in common with for instance going to a library.The shift in communication patterns are central in understanding the concept of immediacy asit is a underlying foundation for changes in news cycle and the increase in speed with which newsare published.
Shortened news cycle
The news cycle, the predictable and rhythmic pattern when something is published, will mostlikely change when news is published on the Internet. For sake of illustration, the paper willcompare online news with traditional newspapers because the difference here will be greater thanfor radio and TV news. A newspaper will typically distribute its news once a day and therefore the news cycle will be24 hours. The journalist will have a deadline to work against and it is predictable when the
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There are other modes of communication in Boudewijks and van Kaams model that are at work when people visits websites but those are not central within the immediacy context.

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