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Module 10: New Media and Journalism

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Blogs and Citizen Journalists

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Blogs and Citizen Journalists

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Blogging

Blogging

Blogging

Blogs and Citizen Journalists

Internet and Competing Interests

From the early days of popular use of the Internet, the rallying cry was that cyberspace was the new frontier, subject to no law.

But governments around the world, shaken by the implications of the new communication technology, have tried to figure out how they can harness and control its use.

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Blogging

The freewheeling world of the blogosphere seems like the last bastion of truly free speech. One does not need a lot of money, an expensive printing press, or a transmitter tower.

Anybody with access to a computer, a modem, and a little software can share his thoughts with the world through a blog.

And many of the intensely personal and highly opinionated blogs proliferating on the Internet, inhabit a world apart, from fact-checked traditional journalism. Bloggers are a law unto themselves.

Blogs and Citizen Journalists

Internet and Competing Interests

In the United States, Congress, state legislatures, and the courts have struggled to balance free speech on the Internet against competing interests, like national security, copyright protection, and the right to reputation.

A report by the Internet watchdog group, OpenNet, showed that attempts to censor the Web are spreading and growing more sophisticated in nations worldwide.

For Example

For Example

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For Example

Saudi Arabia, uses filtering software to block access from sites classified as pornography or gambling to religious conversion sites and sites critical of the Saudi monarchy.

China has been criticized for a combination of Internet control measures, including filtering software, requiring users and Internet cafes to purchase licenses, and banning some Internet cafes.

Did he attempt to verify the accuracy of the story, or did he simply repeat an unsubstantiated rumor? Did he rely on anonymous sources? Did he, in other words, act negligently or with reckless disregard for the truth?

Blogs and Citizen Journalists

Holding Bloggers Accountable

Whatever immunity may exist for links to third-party sites or to postings submitted by readers, a blog publisher can still be sued for any material he writes himself.

During the course of litigation, the blogger could face a protracted examination of his news-gathering techniques.

Libel Suits

Libel Suits

Vulnerable

Vulnerable

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Vulnerable

U.S. legal protections end at the border but the Internet does not. A blogger in the United States can brandish the First Amendment all she wants, but a foreign court has no obligation to pay any attention. Those courts will, for the most part, apply their own laws.

Although traditional journalists long have faced lawsuits and even criminal prosecutions in other countries where their work product is distributed, it may surprise bloggers to learn they are vulnerable to law suits anywhere that their words are read.

Libel Suits

In most countries, libel suits can be grounded only in false statements of fact. No one can be sued for statements of pure opinion that can be proven neither true nor false.

But many blogs are a robust mixture of idiosyncratic opinion and unsupported allegation. It can be hard to distinguish between the two when invoking an opinion privilege, which requires showing that the underlying factual statements on which the opinion is based are true.

Response

Response

Response

Blogs and Citizen Journalists

Holding Bloggers Accountable

Many countries enforce mandatory rights of reply, which compel publication of responses by individuals and corporations who claim they have been the subject of inaccurate reports.

In 2006, the European Parliament adopted a Council of Europe recommendation to extend these rights of reply to online media, including:

“any service available to the public containing frequently updated and edited information of public interest.”

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Response

Many bloggers already take these steps. They update their blogs, print retractions or modifications to erroneous postings, and freely publish responses from disgruntled readers.

They claim that laws are not required to make them act responsibly. But there is a big difference between making an editorial choice because you believe it enhances your credibility and doing so under compulsion of law.

Fragmentation

Fragmentation

Fragmentation

Blogs and Citizen Journalists

Holding Bloggers Accountable

Invasion of privacy presents special challenges in cyberspace. Digital technology facilitates news gathering on a mass scale.

In theory, digitizing government records should create an unprecedented opportunity for citizen access and oversight.

But many legislators, fear that access will facilitate identity theft, employment discrimination, or other illegal conduct, and curtail access to electronic files.

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Fragmentation

In our enthusiasm for digital media, we have to remember that it tends to be an echo chamber. When you can customize your news feed; subjects or viewpoints that you don’t agree with, can be blocked out.
This hardens opinions and works against the politics of compromise that is essential to make democracy work. Instead of being a bridge, therefore, the over-connected Internet fragments and compartmentalizes public opinion.

Blogs and Citizen Journalists

Holding Bloggers Accountable

Judges also express discomfort at the prospect of someone with no legitimate interest in the local community, surfing through records and publishing them online.

They fear that bloggers do little except spread rumors and violate copyright laws, all the while hiding behind the anonymity that the Web permits.

They worry that citizen journalists with cell-phone cameras and recorders will invade courtrooms and post trial footage online, a practice they find both disruptive and undignified. Information, they think, is too valuable, or dangerous, to be online.

Principles

Principles

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Principles

The emergence of the Internet as a significant communications technology and publication platform for journalists creates new legal complications. But the governing principles should remain constant.

They should not depend on whether a journalist works for the mainstream media or publishes a blog. Judges and legislators should follow the principles that have long protected the press and the public’s right to know, regardless of affiliation or platform.

Blogs and Citizen Journalists

Citizen journalists

Online media and citizen journalism are wake up calls for the traditional press to re-invent itself, for journalists to relearn what their profession is all about.

We need a paradigm shift in the way we do journalism.

The mainstream media has not sufficiently upheld the citizen’s right to know what is important and relevant to the majority of them. And that is why citizens have become journalists themselves.

Defining News

Defining News

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Defining News

The trouble begins with what we define as news. Journalism schools have set the criteria: for a calamity or disaster to make it to the news pages the people who die have to do so in sufficiently large numbers, they should preferably be well-to-do, they have to die suddenly and all at once, in one place.
Also, there have to be good visuals, and the victims should speak English.

Blogs and Citizen Journalists

Citizen journalists

Citizen journalists complement traditional journalists. We need both.
What is important is not the platform. What is important is the content. And the delivery is dependent on the content: you choose the medium that best reaches the audience that the message is meant for.

Social networking and citizen journalism complement what the established press doesn’t touch because of state control, commercialization and complacency. It is a tool that takes journalism out of the hands of business and government.

Relevance

Relevance

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Relevance

Press freedom is like a rubber band: to make it work you have to stretch it. Media pluralism has to be protected by its constant and maximum application so that journalists (citizen or otherwise) maintain our credibility and protect our agenda-setting role.
Finally, the real challenge for both new and old media is therefore to be relevant, to enhance our credibility, and to protect our freedoms.
This is true whether our delivery platform is the Internet, broadcast or print, whether we work for a newspaper, we blog, or we tweet.



Blogs and Citizen Journalists

Social Responsibility

Media operates as a business, not a charity: All media organizations have a social responsibility, but that must be balanced with its commercial viability. This is so with state, corporate or community-owned media.
Media is a plural: Media is a basket term for entities with enormous diversity and variability. One size does not fit all, no matter how well intended. It’s crucial to understand before engaging any media.

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