Posts Tagged 'internet'

Media 2.0: the saviour of local journalism

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”, wrote Charles Dickens as the opening line of his novel of the French revolution, A Tale of Two Cities. Written by one of the most famous journalists of his age, this paradox could well be applied to the plight of the modern media industry, which is currently in the throes of its own cultural revolution.
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Yet the story is fast becoming a tale of two industries: as newspaper circulations decline, online news continues to flourish. Despite the contracting economy, UK online publishers have predicted a 16 per cent growth in digital revenues this year as readers abandon paper for free online sources.

News is going digital and it is hitting traditional media organisations hard. But for regional news outlets, which have felt the worst of the media downturn – a study release last month by Princeton university found that only 15 US cities have competing local papers compare to 689 a century ago – web 2.0 is offering a glimmer of hope for the future.

Linda Preston, creator of local news site Darwenreporter.com, believes that the wealth of information created by web 2.0 means that many beleaguered journalists unable to find work are starting their own local websites to fill the vacuum left by the decline in local papers.

She says: “The public still wants someone who can reach out to them on a local level who has an intimate knowledge of the area. Someone still has to hold corrupt officials to account.

 “I’ve found that many journalists facing redundancy are considering following my example and using their skills and long experience to work their own postcode.”

Even for local papers struggling to survive, the web if offering new possibilities. Elaine Helm, new media editor at the Herald in Everett, Washington state, believes that the power of social media is creating a new golden age for online local news outlets. She says:

“For individual and small groups of journalists, there hasn’t been a better time to be doing what we’re doing and getting it out there.”

During the latest “hundred-year storms to hit Washington state, Helm used social networking to keep local residents informed of the latest developments. She sent out a tweet asking people to use a common hashtag – a metadata naming convention – for all information relating to the storm: #waflood.  

Within minutes, a network of journalists from the area were all using the common tag and soon other contributors from the region were joining in. The information was then picked up by federal and state agencies and soon a mass co-ordination of effort by the state, journalists and locals was providing real-time information on the floods.

For Helm, the wealth of information instantly available on the internet means journalists must stop seeing themselves as the gatekeepers of knowledge, but rather the curators. “There’s a role to play for journalists in sorting through all the stuff that’s out there,” she says.

 “I’ve heard people talk about finding the patterns in the noise. We’re more about looking for and tagging the most relevant and original reporting and trying to bring it to our audiences.”
But relying on citizen journalists has its own pitfalls. Last year the Huffington Post, one of the largest digital media current affairs sites in the world, caused a stir by launching OffTheBus, a project which used 12,000 citizen journalists to cover the US presidential election race.

obama-crossIt was hailed as a resounding success. Mayhill Fowler, a 61-year-old failed novelist with no journalism training, broke two of the most memorable stories of the election: Barack Obamas guns and religion blunder and Bill Clintons fuming at a public rally.

However, the coverage also brought into question the viability and integrity of relying on citizen journalists. Barack Obama’s comments were officially made off-record and while for a citizen journalist they are fair game, for a professional breaking confidentiality could potentially undermine journalistic integrity.
It is the lines of integrity and accountability that will mark out journalists from citizens in media 2.0. “For anyone who wants to be part of the journalism world then having people trust them is the most important thing, says Dan Gillmor, author of We the Media and fellow at  the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University. 
Gillmor believes that the advent of web 2.0 will not replace the work of traditional journalists but rather make them more accountable. He says: “I dont think citizen journalists are going to take the place of professionals. They will do things that traditional journalists have never done but we cant replace the good things that they have done. 

Virtual reality

A 19-year-old committed suicide live on the internet while being egged-on by watchers, the Times reported on Friday.

Abraha Biggs, a teenager from Broward County, Florida, took an overdose of pills while broadcasting from his webcam on Justin.tv watched by 1,500 viewers.

Biggs had told chatroom users that he was planning to kill himself, but to begin with no one took his threats seriously and several people even accused him of acting. It was only after he had not moved for several hours that viewers contacted the police.

On another bodybuilding forum he posted a suicide note that read: “”I am an a@#hole. I have let everyone down and I feel as though I will never change or never improve. I am in love with a girl and I know that I am not good enough for her.

“Please forgive me all for taking my own life so early. I tried so hard to fight against this strong battle. I have reached out for help so many times, and yet I believe, I was turned away because of the things I did, that it is a punishment I am willing to take, for I know that being who I am has only brought myself and others pain.”

In a statement outside their home, his father, a maths professor, said: “It’s unimaginable. I don’t want to watch what’s out there.There seems to be a lack of control as to what people put on the internet.”

Last year, a British father-of-two killed himself while streaming on the Paltalk website. Kevin Whitrick, 42, was the first British ‘online suicide’ after he hung himself while being watched and goaded by more than 100 people on the internet.

According to media reports at the time, one chatter urged him:

“Go on, jump! I’m waiting. Look at him wriggling – he can’t even kill himself properly!”

Another source was quoted as saying: “We couldn’t believe he was doing it – it was surreal.”

These incidents are part of a growing trend of online suicides. According to one charity which works to prevent suicide, there have been at least 17 deaths in the UK since 2001 which involved chatrooms or sites which give advice on suicide methods.

Earlier this year 17 young people committed suicide in Bridgend, South Wales. Many argued this spate of deaths was down to the influence of social networking sites which romanticised death.

Bridgend MP Madeleine Moon said: “The worrying part about internet sites is it is a virtual world – it isn’t a real world. The things that happen there don’t necessarily demonstrate the consequences.”
A Home Office survey of UK households in 2008 found that nearly 16.5 million households – 65 per cent of the population – had internet at home, up eight per cent on 2007.

Another survey in 2007 found that people between 15 and 25 were 25 per cent more likely to be online than other age groups and spent 24 per cent more time on the internet than the average user.

The internet has fast become an integral part of most British teenagers’ lives but what impact this will have on current and future generations remains largely unknown. The number of internet suicides has risen dramatically in recent years. Yet why and how internet communities are influencing young people remains an unsolved mystery.

The government has responded by threatening tighter controls on “harmful and distasteful” suicide sites, as well as erecting barriers at well-known “jump points” and setting up “suicide patrols” to watch over sites. But in a country where street violence has claimed the lives of 23 teenagers this year in the capital alone, this sounds like little more than virtual insanity.


May 2017
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