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The Electronic Journal of Communication / La Revue Electronique de Communication

Volume 7 Number 2 1997


Elliot King
Loyola College


Volume 7 Number 2 1997

The Impact of the Internet on Journalism: Introduction

Although interest in news is apparently an integral part of social life (Stephens, 1988), the definition of news, the practices by which news is gathered and disseminated, and the impact of news on human interaction has changed dramatically over time (Lewis 1996). Although the character of news in any specific historical period is shaped by several factors, the available technology plays a significant part. For example, Michael Schudson has argued that new printing technology was a necessary, if not sufficient, condition for the emergence of the inexpensive mass newspapers in the United States in the 1830s (Schudson, 1978). James Carey has suggested that the invention of the telegraph and the development of news wire services in the mid-nineteenth century was decisive in the development of a specific form of presenting news--a form which has been equated with the professional value of objectivity (Carey, 1989) The appearance of portable cameras at the end of the nineteenth century heightened the intrusiveness of the press into private lives and led directly to the notion of a zone of personal privacy in which the press could not intrude (Warren, 1890).

The twentieth century has witnessed a series of technological developments which have influenced modern and contemporary journalism also. Film news reels, radio and, of course, television changed the way journalists gathered and presented news as well as the way the public viewed and understood ongoing events. Some observers now believe that the way in which political campaigns are covered by television is the most important factor in many elections (McCubbin, 1992).

However, the interplay between journalism and technology has never been more dramatic than with the emergence of Internet as a widespread medium of communication in the 1990s. At the beginning of the decade, few journalists and fewer still affiliated with mainstream, mainline media had even heard of the Internet. By 1994, journalists on the leading edge were predicting that the Internet would fundamentally change the way their colleagues would go about doing their work (Reddick and King, 1994). By 1997, the Internet was an integral part of the practice, presentation and social impact of journalism.

Not only did the Internet diffuse through journalism more rapidly and more completely than other once-new technologies, computer-mediated communication and the Internet has had an impact on every aspect of journalism. The Internet has emerged as a new medium of publication, a new tool for reporting, and a new focus for journalism education. Moreover, the Internet has raised new questions about the social responsibilities of journalists to inform the public as well as the ethical practice of journalism. Finally, the Internet is an international medium. Consequently its impact has been felt around the globe.

The explosive rate at which the Internet has penetrated every aspect of journalism has made it an endless topic of speculation and debate among journalists, scholars and the general public. But since it is so new, there has been little time for systematic study and analysis. This issue of the _Electronic Journal of Communication_ presents several of the first studies addressing the impact of the Internet on the form, practice and influence of journalism. The issue includes studies which touch on every aspect of the relationship of the Internet to journalism.

Two articles in the issue explore the Internet as a publishing medium. Kathleen Endres and Richard Caplan survey the phenomenon of "ezines" or magazines published on the World Wide Web. Silvio Waisbord explores the move to online publication among daily newspapers in Latin America. Two of the papers in the issue look at the impact of the Internet on the practice of journalists. Ann Brill has investigated how quickly journalists have adopted and incorporated these new tools into their work, while Wendell Cochran suggests that the Internet could fundamentally change reporting practices.

Three studies in this issue focus on readers. Susan Mings has employed uses and gratification theory to try to understand online newspaper readers. Jane Singer as well as Matt Reavy and David Perlmutter have looked at the relationship of the Internet to the question of an informed public. Will the public generally be better informed through the spread of online information or will the gap between information "haves" and information "have nots" grow? Alternatively, is "new" news being published online at all? Or are online publishing ventures more commonly simply rehashes of information easily found elsewhere?

Of course press freedoms and restrictions vary around the world. Looking at a celebrated Canadian murder case, Eric Easton has explored the ethics of using the Internet to circumvent press restrictions as part of a large look at the ethical standards of online journalism.

There are two reflective articles in the issue. Alissa Sklar deconstructs the way the journalistic frames the Canadian print media used to report on the emergence of the "Information Highway" in 1994. William Leonhirth, David Mindich and Andris Straumanis examine the structure and place in the history of communication technology of a discussion group over the Internet for journalism and mass communication historians called Jhistory.

Finally, the penetration of the Internet into journalism has presented a challenge for journalism educators. David Abrahamson reports on how one leading program has adjusted to the new world.

Journalism, of course, is a quintessential information business. Computers networked together in what is called the Internet has emerged as the most powerful new information technology of this decade. This issue of the _Electronic Journal of Communication_ reflects the gathering of the first systematic studies of their marriage.


Carey, James W. Communication as Culture : Essays on Media and Society (Boston : Unwin Hyman, 1989).

Lewis, Sian. News and Society in the Greek Polis. (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1996).

McCubbins, Mathew D. (ed) Under the Watchful Eye : Managing Presidential Campaigns in the Television Era. (Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 1992).

Reddick, Randy and Elliot King. The Online Journalist. (Dallas TX: Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1994).

Schudson, Michael. Discovering the News: A Social History of American Newspapers (New York: Basic Books, 1978.

Stephens, Mitchell A History of News : from the drum to the satellite (New York: Viking, 1988).

Warren, Samuel D. and Louis D. Brandeis, "The Right to Privacy" 4 Harvard Law Review 193 (1890).
Elliot King
Assistant Professor, Media Studies
Co-director, New Media Center
Loyola College in Maryland
4501 N. Charles St.
Baltimore, MD 21210
Editor, Scientific Computing & Automation Magazine
Tel: 410-356-3943
Fax: 410-356-5217
Internet mail

Internet et son influence sur le journalisme

Bien que le desire d'etre informe semble etre un phenomene social (Stephens, 1988), la definition des informations, les moyens mis en oeuvre pour les obtenir et les disseminer et l'influence qu'elles exercent sur le public ont subi des mutations dans le courant de l'histoire (Lewis, 1996). Quoique plus d'un element constitue la nature des actualites dans une periode historique specifique, les moyens techniques disponibles jouent un role important. Michael Schudson, par exemple, a estime que les progres techniques en imprimerie furent les conditions necessaires, sinon suffisantes, a l'eclosion de la presse bon marche pour tous aux Etats Unis dans les annees 1830 (Schudson, 1978). Au dire de James Carey, l'invention du telegraphe et le developpement des agences de presse employant des depeches telegraphiques au milieu du dix-neuvieme siecle ont exerce une inflence decisive sur le developpement d'une forme de diffusion des actualites --- forme assimilee aux valeurs professionnelles d'objectivite (Carey, 1989). L'avenement des appareils a photo portatifs a la fin du dix-neuvieme siecle permit a la presse de s'introduire davantage dans la vie privee des gens, et, par contrecoup, ouvrit la voie a la creation d'un domaine prive, interdit a la presse (Warren, 1890).

Le vingtieme siecle a ete temoin d'une serie de realisations techniques qui n'ont pas manque d'influencer le journalisme moderne et contemporain. Les courts metrages d'actualites, la radio et, bien sur, la television ont change la facon dont les journalistes se procurent leurs informations et les diffusent, tout comme ils ont change la maniere dont le public voit et comprend les nouvelles du jour. Certains observateurs estiment non sans raison que la couverture des campagnes electorales par la television constitue le facteur le plus important dans beaucoup d'elections (McCubbin, 1992).

Cependant l'arrivee sur scene d'Internet en tant que moyen universel de communication dans les annees 1990 a completement change la donne entre le journaliste et le progres technique. Au debut de la decennie peu de reporters et un plus petit nombre encore de journalistes affilies aux medias dominants avaient entendu parler d'Internet. En 1994, des journalistes a la pointe du progres annoncaient qu'Internet allait radicallement modifier les modes de travail de leurs confreres (Reddick and King, 1994). En 1997 Internet entrait dans les moeurs et devenait partie integrale de la pratique, de la production et de l'influence sociale du journalisme.

Internet a non seulement seduit le journalisme d'une facon plus rapide et plus complete que d'autres techniques jugees nouvelles, mais la communication assistee par ordinateur et Internet ont influe sur tous les aspects du journalisme. Internet est devenu un nouveau moyen de se faire publier, un nouvel outil de reportage et le point de mire dans la formation des journalistes. De plus Internet souleve de nouvelles questions concernant les devoirs civiques des journalistes d'informer le public de leur mieux dans les limites de la decence et de la morale publique. Enfin Internet est un moyen de communication international. Par consequent son influence se fait sentir sur ltensemble de la planete.

Internet a envahi tous les aspects du journalisme tellement rapidement qu'il fait l'objet de speculation et de debats sans fin parmi les journalistes, les professionnels et le grand public. Etant donne sa nouveaute, les specialistes n'ont dispose que de tres peu de temps pour en faire une analyse et des etudes systematiques. Ce numero du _Revue Electronique de la Comunication_ presentent plusieurs des premiers articles traitant de l'influence exercee sur la forme, la pratique et l'ascendant du journalisme sur le grand public. Ce numero comprend aussi des etudes faites sur tous les aspects des rapports entre Internet et le journalisme.

Deux articles de ce numero sont consacres a l'etude d'Internet en tant que methode de publication. Kathleen Endres et Richard Caplan font un tour d'horizon du phenomene dit: <> ou des revues qui paraissent sur la Web. Silvio Waisbord examine la tentative faite par des quotidiens sud-americains de paraitre en ligne sur l'ecran. Deux des articles de ce numero cherchent a decouvrir l'influence qu'Internet exerce sur la pratique des journalistes. Anne Brill a approfondi les causes qui ont amene les journalistes a adopter et a incorporer si rapidement ces nouveaux outils de travail, tandis que Wendell Cochran explique qu'Internet pourrait changer radicallement les pratiques du reportage.

Les auteurs de trois etudes ont arrete leurs reflexions sur la part des lecteurs. Susan Mings s'est servie de la theorie de l'utilisation et de la satisfaction pour comprendre la mentalite des lecteurs qui lisent leurs journaux en ligne. Jane Singer ainsi que Matt Ready et David Perlmutter ont examine la question des rapports entre Internet et un public averti. La diffusion de l'information en ligne informera-t-elle mieux le public ou le fosse se creusera-t-il davantage entre ceux qui ont acces aux informations en ligne et ceux qui n'y ont pas acces? Ou alors ces entreprises de publication s'averent-elles n'etre que rabachage de nouvelles accessibles ailleurs?

C'est bien connu que les restrictions imposees a la liberte de presse varient considerablement d'un pays a l'autre. Eric Easton voulut en savoir plus sur les moeurs journalistiques pratiquees dans le journalisme en ligne. Pour ce faire il se servit d'un cas canadien celebre, celui d'un meurtre, qui lui fournit l'occasion d'etudier la morale journalistique dans l'emploi d'Internet pour contourner la censure.

Deux articles se penchent sur cette question. Alissa Sklar deconstruit la forme que le journaliste donne a la presse ecrite canadienne dont les reportages portent avant tout sur les debuts des autoroutes de l'information. En 1994 William Leonhirth, David Mindich et Andris Straumanis firent l'etude de la structure et de la place dans l'histoire des techniques de la communication d'un forum que les historiens d'Internet pour le journalisme et les moyens de communication de masse appelerent Jhistory.

Enfin l'utilisation d'Internet par les journalistes a pris la forme d'un defi que les enseignants de journalisme s'efforcent de relever. David Abrahamson nous donne un compte rendu d'un excellent programme adapte a ce nouveau monde.

Le journalisme joue bien sur un role essentiel dans la diffusion des informations. La mise en place d'un reseau de supports informatiques pour creer ce qu'on appelle Internet a donne naissance aux plus puissants moyens techniques de communication de cette decennie. On trouvera dans ce numero du _Revue Electronique de la Communication_ une compilation des premieres etudes faites systematiquement sur l'alliance du journalisme et d'Internet.

Ouvrages de reference

Carey, James W. Communication as Culture: Essai sur les moyens de communication de masse et la societe (Boston: Unwin Hyman, 1989).

Lewis, Sian. News and society in the Greek Polis. (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1996).

McCubbins, Mathew D. (ed) Under the watchful eye: La gestion des campagnes presidentielles a l'ere de la television (Washington D.C.: CQ Press, 1992).

Reddick, Randy et Elliot King. The online Journalist (Dallas TX: Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1994).

Schudson, Michael. Discovering the News: Histoire sociale des journaux etasuniens (New York: Basic Books, 1978).

Stephens, Mitchel. A history of News: Du tambour a la satellite (New York: Viking, 1988).

Warren, Samuel D. et Louis D. Brandeis, "The Right to Privacy" 4 Harvard Law Review 194 (1890).
Elliot King
Assistant Professor, Media Studies
Co-director, New Media Center
Loyola College in Maryland
4501 N. Charles St.
Baltimore, MD 21210
Editor, Scientific Computing & Automation Magazine
Tel: 410-356-3943
Fax: 410-356-5217
Internet mail

Introduction to Part One:
The Impact of the Internet on Publishing and Reporting Practices

Information and communication technology has always come to bear on the form and practice of journalism. For example, changes in printing technology laid to wholesale changes in newspaper page layout in the 1880s and 1890s. High-speed photography led to the development of tabloids. The invention of motion pictures led to newsreels. Both radio and television, to large degrees, redefined the presentation of news--favoring short, snappy stories strong on human emotion above intricate, in-depth reports.

New technology has also changed reporting practices. The widespread use of the telephone resulted in an entirely new job category--the rewrite person. Rewrite, in turn, was eliminated as reporters began reporting more from their offices or became able to write and transmit their stories from the field. The telegraph and satellite transmission placed an even greater premium both on timeliness and on witnessing events. At the same time, television monitors meant that people who were not physically in a place could still witness and report on an event.

As an information and communication technology, the Internet has emerged as a medium of publication like newspapers and television as well as tool of reporting. This section of EJC has a collection of articles that examine both those developments. The lead article, by Kathleen Endres and Richard Caplan look at e-zines, the World Wide Web equivalent of the magazine. In what may be the first detailed survey of e-zines, they try to determine who is experimenting with this new medium and why. In the next article, Silvio Waisbord looks at the way daily newspapers in Latin America are going online and why.

The remaining two articles look at the ways that the Internet is being incorporated into reporting practices. Ann Brill has surveyed a sample of early adapters of the Internet in reporting. Wendell Cochran speculates about the long-term impact the Internet may have on reporting.

The overall thrust of this section illustrates the emergence of the Web as a publishing medium and the use of the Internet as reporting tool.
Elliot King
Loyola College


Kathleen Endres
University of Akron

Richard Caplan
University of Akron

Abstract. A sample of 502 randomly selected magazines were drawn to answer the following questions: 1. Who is producing online magazines? 2. What topics are covered in these magazines? 3. Do these publications carry advertising? 4. How much media convergence is there? 5. What is the extend of nudity and/or sexually-oriented materials. The objective is to determine the general subject matter and technological approach of 'zines on the Web and to ascertain if a new breed of information provider is emerging.

LES MAGAZINES DANS LA CYBERSPACE: LES MAGAZINES ENVAHIRAIENT-ILS LES SITES? On a choisi au hasard puis depouille 502 magazines pour pouvoir repondre aux questions suivantes: 1. Qui produit des magazines en ligne? 2. Quels y sont les sujets traites? 3. Ces magazines contiennent-ils de la publicite? 4. Ou se situe le point de rencontre des divers medias? 5. Dans quelle mesure le nu et les sujets a caractere erotique ont-ils pris de l'importance? Cette etude a pour but de delimiter le theme principal qui se degage de ce foisonnement de magazines sur le Web et de cerner les methodes employees. De plus on cherche a verifier si une nouvelle espece de fournisseur d'informations a vu le jour.


Silvio Waisbord
Rutgers University

Abstract. The first section analyzes the reasons for the rush to online news in a region of the world where Internet connections are few, a situation unlikely to change dramatically in the near future. In this context, it is argued, the motivations and expectations for starting digital editions are different in the developed and the developing worlds. The second section reviews the content of online news and suggests that digital dailies reinforce the hierarchical structure of newspaper markets in Latin American countries. Economic stronger news firms can devote more resources than medium and smaller companies to online editions and, consequently, have more possibilities to explore novel ways to produce news taking advantage of several media technologies. The last section suggests that digital dailies recreate and maintain a sense of national belonging among Latin American diasporic populations, which are, reportedly, the largest readership of online editions.

LES ACTUALITES EN LIGNE? QU'EST-CE? LES QUOTIDIENS NUMERIQUES EN AMERIQUE LATINE. La premiere partie de cette etude analyse les causes qui declencherent la ruee vers les actualites en ligne dans une partie du monde ou il n'existe que peu de liaisons Internet. On ne voit d'ailleurs pas comment le nombre de connexions augmentera dans un proche avenir. C'est pourquoi nous osons affirmer que les raisons qui incitent certaines gens a impulser des editions numeriques ainsi que leurs espoirs de reussite ne sont pas les memes dans les pays industrialises et dans ceux en voie de developpement. La deuxieme partie fait un tour d'horizon du contenu des informations en ligne et conclut que les quotidiens numeriques renforcent la structure hierarchique du marche des journaux en Amerique latine. Les nouvelles entreprises, economiquement fortes, ont davantage de ressources financieres que les petites et moyennes entreprises pour financer les editions en ligne, et sont par consequent plus en mesure d'etudier de nouveaux moyens de diffusion en mettant a profit plusieurs techniques mediatiques. La derniere partie de l'article affirme que les quotidiens numeriques recreent et maintiennent un sens profond d'appartenance parmi les populations latines dispersees qui constitueraient le plus grand nombre de lecteurs des editions numeriques.


Ann M. Brill
University of Missouri - Columbia

Abstract. The rapid growth of the World Wide Web has served as a catalyst for newspapers to produce online versions of their products. The growth in the number and scope of these products has been phenomenal. From about two dozen online newspapers in 1995, the industry now numbers more than 1,000 in the United States. While the content of these online newspapers can be viewed globally, little is know about who is producing these sites. Are online journalists newspaper, or perhaps broadcast, journalists who have taken new jobs? Are they computer programmers? What are their backgrounds, skills, work habits, job satisfaction and feelings about their work? This study examines journalists at seven online newspapers in an attempt to begin to understand who these online journalists are and how they feel about the new media in which they are working.