Internet delivery lets newspapers be more of an interactive medium than they had been during centuries of a print-only format. Challenge students to see how many different places they can find where comments from readers and other outside contributors appear in all sections of online editions.
Invite students to compile a group list or individual lists of reasons why newspaper reporters and editors pay attention – or should pay attention – to readers’ feedback in letters, forum posts, blog comments and daily counts of “most frequently e-mailed” articles.
Divide the class into two teams for a debate of the advantages and disadvantages of traditional news sources –- newspapers, magazines, broadcasters –- in comparison to blogs or online forums that are not operated by professional journalists employed by a media company.
The ease and appeal of blogging inspires a dramatically growing number of writers and creators to share their voices with the world. A major survey released last week shows that the blog population has grown to about 12 million American adults (about 8 percent of adult Internet users) and that the number of blog readers has jumped to 57 million U.S. adults (39 percent of the online population).
Most bloggers (37 percent) focus on personal experiences and thoughts, rather than timely topics covered by traditional media. In its phone survey of more than 7,000 adults, including 233 bloggers, the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that relativelty few blogs explore politics and government, entertainment, sports or general news and current events.
One new site that does focus on news was launched this summer at Netscape.com, the home page of a pioneering Internet-access browser. It is reshaped as a collection of links to media articles submitted by users and commented on by eight bloggers recruited by the site’s owner, AOL – the latest major entrant in the growing field of "open source journalism" that lets readers become participants. "The goal is to keep the conversation going," an executive explains.
Netscape's combination of blogging with user recommendations is part of a trend that’s changing news delivery. It’s similar to digg.com and smaller forums where public posts and links generate lively discussions about current events. Netscape.com staff “anchors” add original material in the form of interviews, other reporting and commentary. At least one person is always on duty, a version of the approach at major newspapers, and the Netscape bloggers have a travel budget for on-location reporting with video crews.
Editor says: Blogs mainly cover "narrow, niche subjects that we in the commercial media could not scale down to. Niche media is ‘me’ media, and the blogosphere is the ultimate manifestation of that.” Chris Anderson – editor-in-chief of Wired magazine
Bloggers say: "There is a lot of potential in using the wisdom of the crowd to point journalists in productive directions." – Jay Rosen, media blogger and journalism professor at New York University "The mainstream media is beginning to understand the potential of this new medium [blogging] and co-opt it. Nothing wrong with that. We are at the dawn of this medium. And it hasn't begun to teach us its ultimate potential yet." -- Andrew Sullivan, author and Time magazine blogger
Skeptics say: Readers' comments have an vital place in journalism and should supplement -- but not replace -- reports by trained, experienced news professionals. These traditional “gatekeepers” work to assure that balance, fairness and objective judgment shapes news coverage.
Front Page Talking Points is written by
Felix Grabowski and Alan Stamm for NIEonline.com, Copyright 2013
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