Immediacy of online news: Journalistic credo under pressure

Abstract

Using journalistic normative theory as backdrop, this study tests whether the news cycle of online news differs from that of the traditional paper medium on four Swedish 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 is argued that that the speed of which information is published on the Internet will raise serious questions about the quality, integrity and trustworthiness of the news product. Findings like these could, if commonly found, lead to a debate about and a redefinition 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 1997 there 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 has different characteristics than the analogue mediums of communication. This shift in environment has triggered a whole new field of research - online or digital journalism - that investigates differences and similarities between online and traditional journalism in many aspects. Amongst the distinctive characteristics of the digital medium compared to analogue mediums, especially the newspaper, are interactivity, convergence of pictures, moving images, text and sound into one medium of distribution and, finally, immediacy.

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It has been stated (Massey and Levy 1999) that immediacy might be the most defining characteristic of online journalism compared to traditional journalism. However, few efforts have been made to systematically investigate how immediacy impacts the quality of online news and theorizing and empirical research is virtually non-existent according to Kopper et.al (2000) and Tumber (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 journalists alike and there can be significant variations from one year to another and between different countries. On the basis of empirical evidence is reasonable to assume that at least some of the news is changing. Anecdotal evidence from Hall (2001:109, 2000:390) suggests that news items are changing and disappearing from websites. Seib (2001:147) demonstrates that news is adjusted over time. There have been an ‘ad hoc’ study made by Salaverría (2005) on 9/11 where he concludes that “… these [online] media show an insufficient editorial maturity that occasionally leads them to commit important mistakes in their news reporting”. Mistakes includes that online news was publishing false events without publishing corrections either in the online version or their 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 the empirical understanding of immediacy in online journalism. Immediacy of online news The basic concept of immediacy is relatively straightforward. Immediacy means that there is, in theory, 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 related features. First, the information is digital and can easily be moulded continuously. Secondly the information 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 or once a day on the web, the audience seeks up a database that then presents the information to the 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 on continuously. This is possible because different modes or patterns of communication are at work. Using Boudewijk and van Kaams model (McQuail 2002) over different patterns of communication it can 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 communication1. This is when the producer of information still is controlling what content is available to the audience but to a lesser extent controls when it is being accessed. This communication 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 as it is a underlying foundation for changes in news cycle and the increase in speed with which news are published. Shortened news cycle The news cycle, the predictable and rhythmic pattern when something is published, will most likely change when news is published on the Internet. For sake of illustration, the paper will compare online news with traditional newspapers because the difference here will be greater than for radio and TV news. A newspaper will typically distribute its news once a day and therefore the news cycle will be 24 hours. The journalist will have a deadline to work against and it is predictable when the
1

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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deadline will be. It is also predictable for the news consumers when the news will be distributed. After the news is printed and distributed there is no chance of editing the content of the newspaper. Anything that is printed is being carried over time and space in perhaps millions of copies. The content will be persistent over time until the last copy of the newspaper is vanished a long time from the publishing point. There is an argument that news on the Internet are parasites of traditional news and are transferred onto the website all at once and once per day. This argument is labelled shovelware (Merrit and McCombs 2004:63) and there is evidence that supports such a notion (Bardoel 2002:503, Sott 2005:93 and 110). But more recent studies (State of the Media year report 2005) says that less than 30 percent of the news items looks the same all day. If there is a shovelware effect in this study is to be determined in the empirical evidence but compared to the papermedium there is in an online environment a possibility to shorten the news cycle that was much more difficult to achieve before. The shovelware argument is one side of coin and on the other side it can be argued that the deadline and predictable news cycle are or will be gone when online journalism has adjusted to its medium of communication. This notion has supporters amongst several scholars (see for instance Burnett & Marshall 2003, Hall 2001, Kawamoto 2003 and Scott 2005). It is argued by Kovach & Rosenstiehl (1999:89) that there is a deadline every minute and that there is now a twenty-four-minute news cycle (1999:63). Seib notes (2001:142) that the deadline is always now. Kovach and Rosenstiehl (1999:32) argues that when there is a continuing deadline there is no natural point to take a break and summarize what is known at the end of the day). Instead chances are that there will be a continuous chase for more information on the subject or another news item. This situation has more reminiscence to live-TV than traditional text medium like the newspaper. Still even if radio and TV stations broadcast news all the time it differs from online journalism in two ways.

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First, most of the commercial broadcasting companies have prearranged programming schedules that they need to follow, websites don’t. Second, a news story that unfolds in a live setting is just one news story. TV-stations are experimenting with broadcasting breaking news at the same time as a line about national weather or financial market is transmitted on the TV-screen. Even if this is more than one story, it is still a long way from the literally thousands of news stories that are simultaneously available to the online audience on every online news providers site. Increased speed If the news cycle is shortened, that means that news items are published more frequently. It does not necessarily mean that every news item will receive less attention, there is still at least a theoretical possibility that every news item gets at much attention as before and that the difference is that every news item is published when its done. This is however not a probable scenario given the production context of news. So from the logic of shortened news cycle follows that there is likelihood that news item will receive less attention and processing before it is published due to the shorter time span in online news compared to their paper counterparts. That can result in, claims Kovach and Rosenstiehl (1999:51), that the speed of news production increases and moves towards an immediacy of publishing anything you have as soon as possible. At least when there are no or slim chances of having an exclusive, if you have that you’ll probably save the story for the parent medium. There will probably be an ever-continuing flow of information and news appears on websites as they happen (Hall 2001:55). In short it will always be suitable to publish what you have, however short or incomplete the news is. This in turn should force journalists and news consumers alike to rethink what news are. Instead of being a finished product, online news has to be considered as first takes or as drafts that are very likeably to change (Hall 2001:55 and Seib 2001:149).

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To summarize things so far: online journalism has the specific characteristic of immediacy. This is dependent on a specific form of communication, consultation, which marks communication on the Internet and on the digitalization of information. Information never has to leave the producer and can be accessed at will by news consumers. As a consequence news producers can publish news literally every second and continue to work on them after they have been published. This can lead to a shortened news cycle and an increased speed in news production. Journalistic credo The characteristic of immediacy is described and it is dependent on the medium of communication, the Internet, and it will influence how news is published. At the same time news published on the Internet must relate to the journalistic ideals and norms. Without doubt, there will be many different perspectives on what constitutes good journalism, what journalistic ideals are and should be and to what degree they are at work in modern journalism. This analysis utilizes the normative press concepts laid out in Kovach and Rosenstiehl (2001) to establish a theoretical framework. This is an effort to establish an analytical tool to use with immediacy of news rather then define what journalism really is. The focus will be on the journalistic credo rather than on details and different facets of it. Objectivity One of the most distinguished features of modern journalism is that of objectivity. That has now always been the case. However stable journalistic ideals might seem, they have been changing over the years and striving for ‘objectivity’ has not always been the norm or even desirable (Schudson 1978).

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The idea of pure objectivity may be difficult to fulfil given the constraints and different production filters that is at work whenever organized professional journalism content is created (Shoemaker and Reese 1996). In spite of these difficulties there is still a widespread desire that journalism should strive for objectivity. There are ethical codes of conduct for journalists. Deuze (2005:447) argues that journalists must for instance be objective and have autonomy or in other words have a disinterested pursuit of truth as Kovach and Rosenstiehl notes (2001:42). Journalism should contribute to a shared relevance states Merrit and McCombs (2004). According to Kovach and Rosenstiehl (2001) journalisms essence is verification. These criterias are important to follow for journalism because according to Kovach and Rosenstiehl (2001:11) “Journalism provides something unique to a culture – independent, reliable, accurate and comprehensive information that citizens require to be free”. The same authors states (1999:23) “Accuracy is certainly the first goal of journalism, but it not the only one. Credibility and clarity are important as well”. There are different rituals to confirm and show that information coming from journalists should be viewed differently than that coming from different kinds of persuaders. When journalism fails and complaints are raised against journalists or journalism as a whole the basis of criticism is the lack of objectivity. That it is partial, unfair or outright lies. Very few would accuse commercials or propaganda of the same things because we expect nothing less from it. When the infamous Jayson Blair was caught fabricating his material in different ways the outcry was because he had broken the code of journalistic conduct and the objectivity rituals. Journalisms central position in modern democracies is dependent on peoples need for information. Very few, if any, operators other than the news media have so far been able to deliver that information on a daily basis. At the same time, it is important to stress that there are several definitions of democracy and each one has different normative implications for journalism (Strömbäck 2005). But all in all the debate surrounding journalistic objectivity gravitates around an assumption and desire where news publishers, whoever they might be, are supposed to deliver true and fair journalistic content

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to citizens so they can make informed decisions as members of a, to some extent, deliberative democracy. If journalism fails it not only a problem for journalism in itself, it is also a problem for democracy. Kovach & Rosenstiehl (2001:11) puts it this way “At stake is whether, as citizens, we have access to independent information that makes it possible for us to take part in governing ourselves”. Journalism might be far from perfect but there are few if any alternatives out there that have the same ambition. Immediacy as a part of journalistic ideology While objectivity is central in journalism, immediacy also plays a significant part. Comparing scientists and journalists different conceptions of time Reed (2001) notes that scientists have a much slower pace than journalists due to the short deadlines and immediacy of daily journalistic work. To be first with a news item, to beat the competition, is a part in the journalistic ideology and is both an essentialized value and problematized side effect of news work (Deuze 2005). Immediacy is a well-recognised aspect of newsworthiness and creates a picture of news workers as being dedicated professional (Jaworski et.al. 2004). Not only is immediacy a characteristic of the digital medium, it also corresponds very well with the journalistic self-view. This could make journalists embracing the new technology more than for instance the interactivity feature that would be historically more unaccustomed. Conflicting logics and strategies to cope with it The tension between the objectivity ideal and the lack of resources to fulfil it is not a new idea. It has, however, been raised again, now in an online environment. If journalism is supposed to deliver independent, reliable, accurate and comprehensive information, how is that achieved in an environment that moves literally at the speed of light? How can the integrity of news be

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upheld in an online environment? To this fundamental question four different overlapping strategies of answers can be noted amongst scholars. The first and most common answer could be summarized as: Maintaining the integrity of news in a high speed environment is not possible, therefore online journalism is not journalism. There is a fundamental conflict between speed and critical reflection in general (Virilio 1995 and Armitage 2000:146ff). Time is therefore essential to do good journalism and if there is no time to process information there can be no journalism. Instead we have a kind of voyeurism (Seib 2001:44) because of the lack of analysis, processing and information put in an understandable context. Kovach and Rosenstiehl puts out a warning that “A never-ending news cycle makes journalism less complete” (1999:6). Kovach and Rosenstiehl are by no means alone with this standpoint and scholars like Hall (2000 and 2001), Kopper et.al (2000), Merrit and McCombs (2004), Pavlik (2000), Seib (2001) and have also raised concern about this issue. The second answer is: Online journalism is a different kind of journalism. Rather then arguing that online journalism is a completely different beast it could be viewed as an offshoot from traditional journalism. There are tendencies amongst professional journalists, both those working in an online environment and those that don’t, to view online journalism as different. Thus suggesting that different norms can be used guiding tools in an online environment but that it needs to be separated from traditional journalism. There has been research done (Deuze & Dimoudi 2002:93, Paulussen 2004) on online journalists and their view on journalism. According to these studies (se also Salaverría 2005:79) online journalists sees their role, compared to other journalists, to disseminate information as fast as possible and to reach the biggest possible audience. They are less inclined to critically examine politics and economics and to give audience analysis of complex problems. Online journalists do, however, keep interactivity with the audience in high regards and this has been interpreted (Deuze 1999:373, Deuze & Dimoudi 2002:95) as a will to do ”public” or ”community” journalism. Because of the speed of Internet online news consumers and producers will be, as mentioned earlier, to view online news

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as different drafts that are highly likely to change but that the same rules don’t apply to print media. The third answer is: This is not a problem, on the contrary this will redefine journalism to different and better standards. Not all scholars are criticizing the immediacy of online news entirely. On the contrary it can be argued (Gunter 2003:68) that immediacy of online news is one of the major advantages over print media just because they can update stories and inform the public about events long before print media would be able to. Arguing that reality is fluid and dynamic, Pavlik (2001:21) states that finally there is a medium that is capable of conveying the essence of reality. He further argues that audiences aren’t willing to wait for developments in a breaking story and they want to know right now. If traditional news producers aren’t going to provide that the audience will seek the information otherwise. Furthermore the advantage of being first is small on the Internet because anyone can copy you within seconds from that your news are released, scoops will only remain exclusive for seconds (Kovach and Rosenstiehl 1999:8). Deriving from this logic, Matheson (2004) argues that, competition amongst news producers could instead be based on “knowing more, knowing better and knowing more comprehensively, and knowing in as much depth or extent as readers would wish” (Matheson 2004:458). The overarching logic in this strategy is that there is no point in demanding ideals fitted for a paper medium in an online environment. Because the environment changes so must also the normative guidelines. From that follows that over time the online standards will probably spill over to the traditional medium because there will be problems with having double standards for journalism especially when the same trademark like The New York Times does both online and print journalism. In the end traditional journalism will have to adjust, or at least relate, to the distinctive features of online journalism. Slowly the online medium is forcing journalism as a whole to define a new identity (Robinson 2006:79). Especially the interactivity feature can be considered a journalistic core value in the future (Hall 2001:44). Interactivity undermine the ‘we write, you read’ dogma has have characterized modern journalism (Deuze 2003:220). Journalism

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has to adopt to this (Pavlik 2001:136) because it is not only crucial for journalistic survival but will also serve democracy better. Finally there is also a fourth argument: There is no speed of light in online news so there can be no immediacy problem. This is essentially the shovelware argument put in another context. If the parent medium just transfers its regular news items once a day we basically have print media on an electronic screen. If this is the scenario there is little to be worried about besides what worries scholars about journalism in general. Theoretically speaking immediacy has raised some questions. Some scholars means it is essentially a bad thing other means it is good. Others are indifferent. In either case, empirical evidence is in short supply. Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to test whether immediacy has an impact in online news. Hypothesises The first hypothesis is to establish if there is more than one version of a news item. Assuming that when the technological straightjacket of the paper medium is gone, the news will be published before they are finished. Hypothesis 1: There will be more than one version in a majority of the online news items. It is important that this occurs in a large portion of the news because that would suggest that is a more universal phenomenon rather than isolated events. When that hypothesis is established, hypothesises number two will be tested. The second hypothesis will be based on the assumption that when a news item is rushed out, there will be a need to correct or change the first versions. This will lead to that the description of events will differ over time thus changing the meaning and understanding of the news item. Hypothesis 2: There will be news where the meaning of the news changes. Method

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The websites that was chosen for the study are the Swedish websites aftonbladet.se, dn.se, expressen.se and svd.se. These four sites have the national leading newspapers as the parent medium. Aftonbladet.se and expressen.se stems from tabloids and dn.se and svd.se stems from morning papers. The general methodological approach has been one of non-probability selection. The empirical material consists of fifteen different news items gathered, with two exceptions, from the four websites during 2004 and 2005. Each of these consists of an event that has become news in three or four of the websites. The events were manually downloaded every time they were updated on the website2. The websites was monitored generally from 09.30 to 15.30 to see if the same event was published on three or four websites. If that was the case, or if it were likely that would be the case, I monitored the event and refreshed the websites with an interval of one minute to see if it the content had changed. If there was a change, the event was downloaded and compared to earlier versions. Sometimes the update interval was longer then one minute due to updates and downloading that took longer than a minute. The continuous monitoring stopped at 17.00. At 23.00 and at 09.00 the following morning I went back to the event, under the circumstance that it was still present, and checked for more updates. The specific news was selected on basis that the news had to be published on the top of at least one website’s front page. The top is reserved for news with high newsworthiness and would therefore likely be a breaking news and would have a bigger chance of being updated. If, in future studies, all news on a websites front page are to be included, chances are that the update frequency will decrease. More than one version online?

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There are different computer programs that can download websites. A variety of those were tested but none of the available programs could produce enough reliable results for the purposes of this study.

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A number of news items are represented in table 1. It should be made clear that the news items in themselves are not interesting but they are included in the table to keep the different news items separated. Table 1
News item Iraqi bomb 1 (Bagdad) Murder in Gothenburg Demonstrators killed in Thailand Iraqi bomb 2 (al-Hilla) Bomb attack on president of Kosovo Voting in EU parliament Appeal in Anna Lindh murder case Religious murder Climbing accident kills two people Attack on Israeli prime minister in Hungary Car crash in Norwegian tunnel Plane crash in Russia Raid against Internet paedophiles Iraqi bomb 3 (Baquba) Aftonbladet.se 12 versions 23 versions 5 versions Expressen.se 6 versions 6 versions 4 versions Dn.se 5 versions 5 versions 2 versions Svd.se 6 versions 5 versions 4 versions

17 versions 2 versions

5 versions 5 versions

11 versions 2 versions

10 versions 4 versions

7 versions 4 versions

7 versions 6 versions

11 versions 4 versions

4 versions 2 versions

3 versions 16 versions

5 versions 13 versions

1 version 5 versions

2 versions 7 versions

2 versions

3 versions

2 versions

2 versions

4 versions

4 versions

2 versions

2 versions

4 versions 3 versions

5 versions Doesn’t occur as news 4 versions

3 versions 3 versions

3 versions 5 versions

2 versions

7 versions

3 versions

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Police hunt for robbers

Doesn’t occur as news Table 1 shows 15 different news items and how many different versions of them that has been published on respective website.

1 version

3 versions

4 versions

Out of 58 possible cases 56 news have more than one version (15 news items multiplied with 4 sites minus the 2 cases that didn’t make the main page of svd.se and expressen.se). A new version of the news item is considered when text, pictures, graphics, author or editing changes. This includes for instance new headlines, correcting spelling errors and reediting the text. While not very controversial it shows that content in online journalism are continuous work in progress and not shovelled over from the parent medium once a day. It should be noted that many of these news items are telegrams delivered from news bureaus, and when a new telegram is sent out it simply replaces the old. Many of the news texts on the different websites are identical due to they are using the same news bureau. Nevertheless, there are different versions and a few of the news, notably local Swedish news, have original reporting. Aftonbladet.se (15 news) has on average 7.0 versions per story, dn.se (15 news) has 4.5 versions per story, expressen.se (14 news) has 5.7 versions and svd.se (14 news) has 3.9 versions. Aftonbladet.se has most changes with 23 different versions on one occasion. Out of 58 possible cases only 2 news items have one version. When it is established that there are different versions – are there any evidence of change in meaning? Change of meaning In general there is not a problem with having different versions of a news story. If immediacy is used in correspondence with the current journalistic credo, a short version or a ‘heads up’ could be posted on the website. More and more detailed information could then be added as the story unfolds. This would be unproblematic and would draw little or no attention from scholars. Instead it is more interesting to investigate what divides the different versions of the same news

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items. Note that the changes in meaning are deviations and inconsistencies from previous versions - not adding information or building a context. To investigate this, two different questions are posed: The first is “Does the meaning of news change?” and the second is “Does news disappear from web sites?”. In print journalism there is usually a consistent main theme answering the questions of who, when, how, what and why. If the speed of online news has an impact on news, the main theme should to some extent vary between different versions of news. Table 2 presents what news has a change in meaning. Table 2
News item Iraqi bomb 1 (Bagdad) Murder in Gothenburg Demonstrators killed in Thailand Iraqi bomb 2 (al-Hilla) Bomb attack on president of Kosovo Voting in EU parliament Appeal in Anna Lindh murder case Religious murder Aftonbladet.se X X X Expressen.se X X X Dn.se X X X Svd.se X X X

X

X X

X X

X X

X X X

X

Climbing accident kills two people Attack on Israeli prime minister in

X

X

Only one version no change possible X

X

X

X

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Hungary Car crash in Norwegian tunnel Plane crash in Russia Raid against Internet paedophiles Iraqi bomb 3 (Baquba) Police hunt for robbers

X X

X Doesn’t occur as news

X X

X X

X

Only one version X Doesn’t no change occur as possible news Table 2. The different ‘X’ marks what news item that has change in meaning on the different websites.

Out of all possible cases there are changing of meaning in 36 of them. This is in a clear majority of the news item collected but it is again vital to stress that these news was selected because of a high probability to change. A larger sample would probably have a slighter proportion of changing news. Nevertheless there are changes but they need to be divided into smaller and deeper aspects. Small changes Small changes are when the main theme is basically the same but details deviates over time in regards to answering the questions of who, when, how, what and why. Spell correcting, editing or rearranging text is not included in small changes. The small changes will be illustrated with three examples. Avalanche turns into climbing accident. In 15th of April 2004 two men dies in Swedish mountains. This is first reported on all four news sites as a avalanche accident and warnings about the avalanche risk in general are published and links are made to previous articles about avalanches. Eventually after a couple of hours it turns out that the men died in a climbing accident and started the avalanche when the fell off the mountain. Material in the news articles

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that mentions avalanches are taken away in the later versions and on dn.se replaced with a completely different text. Number of dead in Russian plane crash. 16th of March 2005 a plane crashes in Russia. First reports on the websites states that all 52 passengers died in the plane crash. Gradually the passengers come alive and when the final version of the news is published only 29 passengers are reported to be dead and there are 23 survivors of which 10 are badly wounded. Raid against paedophiles. On 16th of March 2005 it is reported that police forces around the world has made synchronized raid against suspected paedophiles and arrested a number of persons. At first it is reported that suspects has been apprehended in Sweden also. But after just eight minutes that information disappears from the websites. The three examples all illustrate how the basic story still stay the same but there are changes in details. That is not the situation with all cases. Deeper changes A large change is when the news story changes completely or when the frame in which the event has been presented changes. Three examples will illustrate the larger changes. Demonstration in Thailand. 24th October 2004 there is a demonstration in Thailand and 84 people dies. The first reports on the websites says that demonstrators were choked when chaos somehow erupted in the crowd. Gradually the reports tells that there have been a clash between demonstrators and police and the final versions states that the 84 demonstrators died in police busses and lorries where they were literally piled on each other after being arrested. The blame of the deaths of the demonstrators changes during the course of the day and thus shifts the understanding of the event dramatically. Iraqi bomb 1 (Bagdad). The event takes place 1st June 2004. The first reports on the websites suggests that bombs have exploded near U.S. headquarters in Bagdad and up to ten people can have been killed. A little bit later there are ‘at least’ 25 lethal casualties and the explosion site is

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moved to a headquarter for a Kurdish party and the explosions has been reduced to one. There are also reports from a named witness that guards outside the party headquarters opened fire with automatic weapons after the explosions killing innocent civilians in the vicinity. Later the same day, an anonymous ‘American officer’ states that only three, all security guards outside the party headquarters, people were killed. When this source makes its entry, all the other sources go away and with them goes the information they have provided. In the last versions that day on the websites, apart from aftonbladet.se, the American officers also disappears but the information provided stays. At the end of the day, it is very difficult to asses what really, especially from distance, happened due to the big variation in different versions of the news and sources that has disappeared. “How many died?”, “What killed them?” and “Where was the explosion?” are questions that remains to be answered. Israeli prime minister. This event dates April 4th 2004. The news reports starts with revealing that an assassination attempt on the Israeli prime minister has been fended off. According to the first reports a ‘terrorist group’ has been uncovered and three ‘Arabs’ have been taken into custody. On some of the websites there are also hyperlinks to different kind of international terrorism. After a while, the story changes completely on dn.se and svd.se (it stays the same on the other two websites). Now it is one Hungarian individual of Palestinian heritage that has planned an attack on a Holocaust museum in Budapest. Beginning with an Arab terrorist plot to kill the Israeli president, it transfers to a lone madman trying to blow up a museum. The meaning of news can change in a significant way in an online environment while it would stay the same in print although it could change in radio and TV. This is not to say that one persistent theme is more ‘true’ or that print journalism gets it more right than online journalism. But it will be very difficult to uphold the ‘we deliver the one and true version of events’ journalistic idea when the audience is served conflicting description of events within the same trademark. Truth, in essence a monolithic affair, will be hard to sell when it’s ambiguous.

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Disappearing news? Disappearing news is changing in meaning due to the fact that one minute something is stated and the other it is not. As Hall (2001:109) mentioned news can disappear from websites. To see if this was common in the material news was visited a couple of days after they was first published. Out of 58 possible cases news did disappear on four occasions. Two of the disappearing news was about ‘Iraqi bomb 3 (Baquba)’ and it was on aftonbladet.se and svd.se it disappeared. Other news that disappeared was ‘Demonstrators killed in Thailand’ (expressen.se) and ‘Voting in the EU parliament’ (svd.se). Compared to changes in the meaning of news, this is a rather uncommon practise although it clearly happens more than one time so it is not isolated events. Disappearing of news could be because a number of reasons for the news to disappear: The event didn’t happen. It is a cover-up of the websites bad journalism. The news is deemed not newsworthy enough to stay on the website. Someone of the editorial staff made a mistake and it went off the website. Regardless what the reason is, it is impossible for a news consumer to appreciate the reason unless the news producer informs why and that doesn’t happen in any of the cases in the material. There are faulty articles in print journalism also but they are the exception and are sometimes presented in a special section of the newspaper. The results from this study shows that it can be faulty or dubious news on a more regular basis in an online environment. Limitations of the study The results clearly support the hypothesises although one must be careful in generalizing from limited material. To be certain further research has to be performed, but for breaking news on Swedish newspapers websites the shovelware label doesn’t seem to hold. One also need to keep in mind that broadcast media and more similar to online journalism than print journalism so a

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comparison of those entities would produce different results. Digital media does, however, differ significantly from broadcast media as described earlier. Discussion In this material it is obvious that immediacy is alive and well on Swedish newspapers’ online news sites. Further, it is also clear that immediacy of online journalism has an impact on how news stories are told and in the accuracy of news. The suggestion (Hall 2001:55 and Seib 2001:149) of looking at online news as different drafts is a good idea. Problems occurs if it doesn’t become anything more than a draft. Will it ever become good enough to be considered a final version? Although it is not self-evident that the news are getting more objective over time. The news about the bomb in Bagdad seems to get more opaque as the news is updated. News could theoretically as well as changing for the better change to conform to different agendas. Kovach and Rosenstiehl (2001:11) state that “Journalism provides something unique to a culture – independent, reliable, accurate and comprehensive information that citizens require to be free”. The finding from this study sure raises questions about the reliability and accuracy of information in online news. Does that make us, the citizens, less free or should the findings be viewed in a different way? It has been suggested (Robinson 2006:80) that it is time to re-examine traditional normative theory, as it appears in Kovach & Rosenstiehl (2001), in the light of an online environment. Online journalists (Deuze & Dimoudi 2002:93, Paulussen 2004 and Salaverría 2005:79) sees their role to disseminate information as fast as possible and if this is an acceptable normative standpoint they succeed rather well at it and they use online news main advantage immediacy (Gunter 2003:68) rather well. If reality is fluid and dynamic (Pavlik 2001:21) the content in these online news thoroughly gets that across. One can also argue that the ‘journalism’ part of online journalism should be reviewed in the light of an online environment. The findings also support the idea that there is little or no time

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to process the information before it is served to the audience given the fact that there are conflicting description of events on a regular basis in the material. This supports Seibs (2001:44) argument that it is a kind of voyeurism. The high speed and different versions in the empirical study suggests that the deadline is always a deadline (Kovach and Rosenstiehl 1999:86, Seib 2001:46) and that there is an ongoing news cycle that could make journalism less complete (Kovach and Rosenstiehl 1999:6). Although it might change over time, there is no finding in this material that supports the expectation that online media competes with “knowing more, knowing better and knowing more comprehensively, and knowing in as much depth or extent as readers would wish” (Matheson 2004:458). The empirical study only challenges one of the four arguments – the shovelware argument. The other three argument is impossible to repudiate because they all take-off from different normative perspectives. The empirical study only tells us how things are, not how to judge them. Regardless of which normative route one prefers, it is clear that traditional normative journalistic theory and the online reality do not correspond very well in these cases. Online journalism challenges without doubt both traditional journalistic norms and scholars. Will it revolutionize journalism in itself or how we look at journalism? Probably not, but chances are that it will slightly change the centre of gravity for journalism. References Armitage John (ed.) (2000), Paul Virilio. From modernism to hypermodernism and beyond, Sage Bardoel Jo (2002), The Internet, journalism and public communication policies, vol 64(5) Gazette Burnett Robert (2003), Marshall David P., Web theory. An introduction. Routhledge. Deuze Mark (1999), Journalism and the web. An analysis of skills and standards in an online environment, Gazette vol 61(5)

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Deuze Mark (2003), The web and its journalism: considering the consequences of different type of newsmedia online, New media & society Deuze Mark, Dimoudi Christina (2002), Online journalists in the Netherlands. Towards a profile of a new profession, Journalism vol 3 pp. 85-100 Deuze Mark (2005), What is journalism? Professional identity and ideology of journalists reconsidered, Journalism vol. 6(4) Gunter Barrie (2003), News and the net, Lawrence Earnbaum Associates Hall Jim (2001), Online journalism. A critical primer. Pluto Press Hall Jim (2000), The first web war: Bad things happen in unimportant places, Journalism studies volume 1 number 3 Jaworski Adam et.al. (2004), Radio leaks. Presenting and contesting leaks in radio news broadcast, Journalism Vol. 5(2): 183–202 Kawamoto Kevin (ed.) (2003), Digital journalism. Emerging media and the changing horizons of journalism, Rowman & Littlefield Kopper Gerd et.al. (2000), Research review: Online journalism. A report on current and continuing research and major questions in the international dicussion, Journalism studies Volume 1 number 3 Kovach Bill, Rosenstiehl Tom (2001), The elements of journalism. What newspeople should know and the public should expect, Crown publishers Kovach Bill, Rosenstiehl Tom (1999), Warp Speed. America in the age of mixed media, The century foundation press Massey Brian L, Levy Mark R (1999), ’Interactive’ online journalism at english-language web newspaper in Asia. A dependency theory analysis, Gazette vol 61(6) Matheson Donald (2004), Weblogs and the epistemology of the news: some trends in online journalism, New media & Society vol 6(4) McQuail Denis (ed.) (2002), McQuail’s Reader in mass communication theory, Sage

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Merrit Davis, McCombs Maxwell (2004), The two W´s of journalism. The why and what of public affairs reporting, Lawrence Erlbaum associates inc. Reed Rosslyn (2001), (Un-)professional discourse? Journalists’ and scientists’ stories about science in media, Journalism vol 2(3) pp 279-298 Robinson Susan (2006), The mission of the J-blog. Recapturing journalistic authority online, Journalism vol 7(1) pp65-83 Paulussen Steve (2004), Online news production in Flanders: How flemish online journalists perceive and explore the Internet’s potentia, Journal of computermediated communication 9 (4) Pavlik John (2001), Journalism and new media, Columbia university press Pavlik John (2000), The impact of technology on journalism, Journalism studies Volume 1 number 2, Salaverría Ramon (2005), An immature medium. Strength and weaknesses of online newspapers on September 11, Gazette vol 67(1) Schudson Michael (1978), Discovering the news. A social history of american newspapers, Basic Books Scott Ben (2005), A contemporary history of digital journalism, Television and new media Vol 6 Seib Philip (2001), Going live. Getting the news right in a real-time online world, Rowman and littlefield Shoemaker Pamela J, Reese Stephen D (1996), Mediating the message. Theories of influences on mass media content, 2nd ed, Longman 1996 State of the media Year report 2005 site visited at 2005-12-06 time: 09.55 Strömbäck Jesper (2005), In search of a standard: four models of democracy and their normative implications for journalism, Journalism studies volume 6, number 3 Tumber Howard (2001), Democracy in the information age: The role of the fourth estate in cyberspace, Information communication & society 4:1

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Virilio Paul (1995), Speed and information: Cyberspace alarm!, downloaded 2004-05-04 time: 14.44

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