Concern over the state of online journalism

Bambi Francisco Roizen · March 30, 2009 · Short URL:

Report finds journalists are worried about lack of accuracy and loosening standards online

 As traditional newspaper struggle to stay alive, online journalists are finding themselves in a more optimistic state about their future over those in traditional media. According to a report by Online News Association produced by the Association and the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism, online news people are more confident than pessimistic that online news site will find a self-sustaining business model.

But the report also finds that online journalists are worried about the future of the medium. They believe that the Internet is changing "the fundamental values of journalism - and more often than not for the worse."

Online journalists surveyed, who came largely from sites tied to traditional media, said the biggest change and impact to journalism was the "loosening of standards and carelessness in online news gathering." They cited declining accuracy in reports due to the emphasis on breaking news.

Here are some other highlights from the report:

- A solid majority of those surveyed (57%) say the Internet is “changing the fundamental values of journalism.” The biggest changes, the respondents said, were a loosening of standards (45%), more outside voices (31%) and an increased emphasis on speed (25%). 

- When asked what online journalism is “doing especially well these days,” more named aspects of technology like using advancements well (31%) or speed (30%) than named reporting skills like improving storytelling (16%) or exploiting the potential for greater depth (12%).

- Six in 10 (63%) of respondents ranked original reporting as the most important type of information they produce. This was more than four times as much as the second-most important information type: aggregated material from wires and other legacy outlets (13%).

- For the most part, online journalists say they have been spared the kinds of staff cutbacks their legacy brethren experienced in 2008. Many (39%) reported staff increases compared with a year earlier. Another third said their staff numbers have remained the same. Less than a quarter (23%) saw staff decreases.

- Despite current trends, most of these online journalists are pinning their hopes in the future on advertising. Roughly two-thirds of these online journalists predicted advertising would be the most important form of revenue at websites three years from now. Only a quarter of respondents named some other new revenue model.

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Bambi Francisco Roizen

Founder and CEO of Vator, a media and research firm for entrepreneurs and investors; Managing Director of Vator Health Fund; Co-Founder of Invent Health; Author and award-winning journalist.

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