One learns to percept information from the outside from the first minutes after the moment of birth. After some period, one begins to understand how to process information coming from everywhere. Eventually, the combination of new incoming data and the ability to process it forms knowledge and understanding of things. Due to this ability, people were able to reach the current level of development and become who they are today.
The desire to understand how everything works became the driving force for different sciences. Curious people became scientists, explorers, engineers, inventors, and creators of something new and unusual. Combined with outstanding brain capabilities, this is one of the most powerful weapons of any investigator. Journalism is also based on curiosity and desire to know the truth. This is the practice that tends to investigate something and report about the results to the broad audience.
The themes of investigations can vary greatly. The purpose of such activities differs as well; however, the most common concept of journalism presupposes informing the publicity. Journalists try to find out the real state of things in each particular case they investigate. These people provide masses with news and other related information, and thus, journalists are able to affect the public opinion. Journalists form the news media that people got used to percept as the most reliable source of information in most cases.
This paper examines journalism through the prism of evolution and ethics. It also explores the evolutionary changes in technological area that have led to the substantial changes in the sphere of journalism, and have created a new form of journalism – the cyber journalism. In this paper, one will also learn what such concepts as citizen journalism and participatory journalism are, and also will investigate the standards, laws, and ethical concerns in this area. The appropriate conclusion will be also presented.
The Evolution of Internet as a Medium for Journalism
The advent of Internet can be addressed to the army, as the most interested organization at this moment. However, the idea of connecting computers with each other to achieve great distribution and overall reliability of such system evolved into something completely different. Internet became the new medium of sharing information. It was the ideal place for journalism to develop (Cohen, 2002).
In fact, online medium became the unique opportunity for all people to develop their journalists’ abilities. Facilitated access to almost any information online has made journalism different forever. People got an opportunity to research any topic they like, and then share the results of the research with the entire world. Of course, Internet audience grew not that quickly, and there were no appropriate tools for journalistic activities.
Nevertheless, the situation was changing with the continuous evolution of Internet and its growing popularity. The more people began to use Internet as the medium for communication, the more tools were created to facilitate it. In 1994, the student from Swarthmore, Justin Hall created the first specialized website, containing links to news sources. It was called links.net. A few years later, in 1997, David Winner presented the first known “web log”, named Scripting News (Radcliffe, n.d.).
The combination of the terms “web” and “log” resulted in the term, which is very well-known today not only for Internet users, but for other people, as well. Blog, as the main tool for any online or cyber journalist, got its name from Peter Merholz, a web logger, who merged both words with the above mentioned result. It happened in 1999.
In the same year, a San Francisco company, Pyra made blogs’ mainstream. The company created free software called Blogger. Thus, the development of blog users’ movement and the cyber journalists’ further development got a new push. In 2001, the first official awards for blogs were presented to the online community.
In 2003, Google, as one of the few companies, which have developed intuition regarding successful innovations, acquired Pyra with its Blooger software. In a few years, video blogs – video messages, either recorded somehow or transmitted via the web camera to Internet, gained tremendous popularity among the Internet community. Mass media started to pay more attention to these developing technologies. During this period, AOL has purchased Weblogs. This has been one of the most popular blogging websites till today.
The evolution of Internet technologies made possible all these changes. The technological development of data transfer channels and constant improvement of hardware and software solution for networks have irreversibly changed the concept of mass media. The only obstacle on the way of recognition of the online journalism as the trustworthy source of information was the press credentials. However, according to Radcliffe (n.d.), it was eliminated, “when a federal court ruled in favor of allowing press credentials for journalists from Media Bloggers Association”. Thus, online journalists became equal members of worldwide journalists’ society.
The Concept of Citizen Journalism
The above described changes in the perception of cyber journalism and, making it worth of attention, promoted the appearance of such concept as citizen journalism. The concept refers to the state of things, when regular people or citizens have the desire to take a more active part in the news (Holetzky, 2010; Bulkley, 2012). These people are not professional journalists and often propose alternative opinion to the facts from the mainstream media reports.
Citizen journalism includes activities from posting comments in blogs and news sites to create rather scooped stories regarding the topic of interest. The goal of the vast majority of such journalists is to provide the community with views from the both sides regarding the subject and not to allow some reporters’ biased opinions guide other people. Some news outlets claim that citizen journalists threaten journalistic integrity and professionalism (Holetzky, 2010; Bulkley, 2012).
However, it was citizen journalists, who sometimes caught provocative footages, such as inappropriate behavior of law enforcement authorities, or celebrities doing something worth more attention, than usual. Therefore, citizen journalists provide people with another point of view, and thus, help mainstream media hold higher standards. It is clear that these journalists are not journalists in the true meaning of this word, since they have not spent years in this area, and have no appropriate education.
Nevertheless, it is exactly those people, who are sometimes able to provide regular people with bare facts, and allow them to decide how these facts should be treated. It is rather obvious that such freedom in personal expression could be realized, using the opportunities that only Internet can provide. Thus, emerging of such concept, as citizen journalism was conditioned by the evolutionary changes in Internet and nothing else (Holetzky, 2010).
Cyber Journalism as a Social Construct
Cyber journalism concept emerged to satisfy the specific needs of particular small group of people. Online pioneers firstly wanted to share the information, and then began to realize that they could provide regular people with alternative views on the common facts. In a while, this concept became more popular than this initial group had even possibly expected.
Along with growing popularity of online journalism, the perception of information presented by cyber journalists altered. as well. It happened because people have changed. People got used to Internet and mobile communications, and began to perceive it as something that has always been in their life. It is not surprising that, after decades of evolutionary changes, Internet became a more influential source of information than usual news outlets (Domingo, 2006; Cohen, 2002).
A small group of people created cyber journalism to be able to express their thoughts, using such advantages of Internet as anonymity, unlimited access to the audience, and free of charge process of blogging, commenting, posting, etc. If, at the beginning, online journalism was some kind of a toy or a way to let off some steam, today it overgrew this role and became a serious instrument with numerous opportunities.
In fact, the tools for online journalism were created in order to provide people with additional convenience, and make something useful for Internet. The above mentioned first website with links to news, first” web log” websites – all of them were created as an experiment of what Internet was capable of. As all can see today, Internet is only the medium for information exchange in various forms. Only people can make useless or tremendously influential, and useful information, creating such social constructs as cyber journalism (Domingo, 2006; Cohen, 2002).
Online journalism has many forms, and not all of them are substantially influential or provocative, as serous online journalists and citizen journalists might think. In some cases, cyber journalism is just the development of some interesting topic on some website. Participatory journalism is one of such cases. Its main area of application is blogging, or a discussion of something on a thematic forum.
It can be defined as an additional point of view on some issues, objects, or personality, or providing of supplementary materials that improve and add the initial post. Participatory journalism is like having a good conversation with a pleasant opponent – it is interesting and might be challenging in a good way. However, despite the impression that it is more than easy, and that anyone can be a participatory journalist, it is not so (Ryfe & Mensing, 2008).
Any journalist must have style, be attentive to details, and present the researched material in the way that will be interesting to the readers. Otherwise, the journalist will not be successful. The same situation is in the participatory journalism. It is not enough to simply add some photo to the article, posted earlier on some blog, leave a pointless comment, and think job was well done.
Participatory journalist should be able to add or improve the existing material with relevant, unique, and interesting information. In order to do so, one might need to make some additional research on the topic, find more information, read lots of irrelevant information to distill the real thing. In this case, the person who is able to support the research with new information with respect to the initial work can be called a participatory journalist. As one can see, this kind of journalism is very similar to citizen journalism, but it is less provocative and opposite to the initial material (Ryfe & Mensing, 2008).
As one can see, the concept of cyber journalism came a long way from the entertainment for a small group of people within limited “circle” to the powerful and influential movement with numerous substances. During these years, people became more advanced in the matters of technology and self-perception. Lots of Internet users got the understanding that they could affect something in this life, using their words and non-violent actions. When the appropriate tools and media were invented and evolved to some particular level, the desire to have some kind of influence on people’s life and opportunities to do it have merged.