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The internet and the emergence of new technologies have changed the profession of journalism (Breunade, 2010; Cerf, 2006). The internet still continues to evolve and has provided new dimensions in journalism. The growth of the internet is on the infancy stage and there are more important changes that are expected in future (Atton & Hamilton, 2008). The emergence of the internet and technology has greatly changed the concept of journalism. The main strengths of the internet is that it provides unlimited amount of time, unlimited amount of space and is available worldwide.in print journalism space is limited whereas in radio and television the amount of time is limited (Cerf, 2006).
Today Individuals rely on the internet in obtaining a wide variety of information. It is estimated that over a billion people access the internet regularly (Cerf, 2006). China has around 300 million internet users whereas the US has around 220 million internet users (Cerf, 2006). The PEW estimates that average American citizen spends about 10 hours a week on the internet whereas their Chinese counterparts spend about fifteen hours per week on the internet (Cerf, 2006). Today it is estimated that there are about a million bloggers (Bryeunade, 2010). The rapidly evolving internet has led to the increased distribution of audio and video content.
Technologies such as RSS have enabled people to receive updates on webpages that are of interest. The wide range of information available on the internet has raised questions regarding whether people will be able to absorb and deal with this information (Pavlik, 2001). However, people do not need to read and absorb all the information that is available on the internet, in fact most readers select areas that are of interest to them.
Information that has been put on the internet is easily archived and can be retrieved with ease through search engines (Mathew, 1998). The traditional model of journalism was based on the ideology that "we deliver, you accept", however this system has now become irrelevant because more people are able to post comments and criticize articles on the internet (Mathew, 2006).
The revolution of the internet has brought several benefits to journalists. Today journalist can use technological advancements to explore the social and political issues that affect the community with precision (Usher, 2005). This aspect of journalism will help them acquire the necessary knowledge and ideas that are required in reshaping our democratic institutions. The internet has emerged as a new tool for of publication, a new reporting tool and a new focus for journalist education (Atton & Hamilton, 2008). The internet has also exposed other aspects of journalism such as the social responsibility of journalists. Journal articles that are published online are distributed to the entire world and can be accessed by anyone with an internet enabled gadget such as a mobile phone. The internet has more potential to cause significant impacts on journalism than any other previous technological changes (Mathew, 1998). Journalists who utilize internet based media should adhere to professional ethics especially on matters relating to accuracy, taste, accountability and objectivity. Today blogs are the driving force behind online news with companies, journalists and individuals joining the internet bandwagon (Bryeunade, 2010).
Traditional publishers are already experiencing the effects of internet journalism. There has been decline readership of printed newspapers and declined viewing of television news (Usher, 2005). People today find newspapers-on-demand more appealing because of the ability to obtain news whenever they want (Usher, 2005). Traditional companies have been slow to adopt the change because they lack proven economic models which they could emulate in the provision of online news (Usher, 2005). Traditional publishers have also raised concerns surrounding the validity and reliability of unedited information that is now increasingly available on the internet (Usher, 2005; Mathew, 1998; Atton & Hamilton, 2008). The publishing of research information online suffers the greatest blow. This is because research that has not been referred can have profound impacts on those who adopt the findings. The internet's ease of access and immediacy makes it impossible to eliminate unreliable research.
Respectable medical journals such as the British Medical Journal (BMJ) and Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) have developed strategies necessary in expediting the process of publishing and referring critical medical research (Usher, 2005). The internet is swelling up with information that has not been reviewed. It is difficult for a single organisation review all the information that is available online. Nevertheless, there is mounting pressure for organizations to review this information. This concern is genuine because it will reduce the spread of misinformation. There is also a possibility of material available on the internet disappearing without trace (Mathew, 1995). This could make it difficult to retrieve sources of controversial material that has already been published. However, reporters have still benefited a lot from reliable information that is available on the internet. For example reports can subscribe to discussion groups and newsgroups whereby they can obtain reliable opinions from experts or the general public (Mathew, 1998; Pavlik, 2001). Reporters can also pose questions and then gather responses later.
The cost of producing and publishing print media was very expensive in the recent past. Nowadays the cost has become extremely low and all that one requires is a computer and an internet connection (Mathew, 1998). There are many large organizations that are ready to publish your work from independent writers and rely on revenues arising from advertisement (Mathew, 1998). On the other hand one can maintain an in independent website at a low cost as compared to traditional publishing. Currently the internet has more than 6600 electronic English editions of commercial magazines and newspapers (Cerf, 2006). Majority of these can be accessed freely. Some journalists have single-handedly published information on their personal websites and in the course of doing so; they have attracted investors and advertisers thereby raising adequate revenue. However, there has been great opposition to this phenomenon particularly because there is a growing trend of journalist developing stories and publishing information for the sole purpose of monetary gain.
Journalism has also been influenced by the advent of blogs/ web blogs (Bryeunade, 2010). Blogs have provided everyone with an opportunity to write and publish articles. Journalist can also use blogs to write stories/articles that have already been published in order to reach a wider audience (Bryeunade, 2010). The major challenge facing the material/ articles published via blogs is the authenticity of the information particularly because there is no regulating body charged with verifying the information presented on the blog (Bryeunade, 2010). Secondly, there are issues relating to copyrights because it is easy to publish material which has already been published by another writer on the internet (Bryeunade, 2010). Third, the credibility of material that is published via the blog is questionable because most of the writers do so for monetary gains (Bryeunade, 2010).
Blogging is a very interesting phenomenon; this is because it is done online and is very manageable (Cerf, 2006). Blogs can be read, indexed and searched using computer programs and also allow people to leave feedback (Cerf, 2006). This is very important because the future of journalism seems to be inclined towards interactivity and exchange of ideas with customers online (Cerf, 2006). Blogging today has branched further into video-blogging and audio-blogging (Cerf, 2006).
Blogging in a way compliments professional journalism and fills the gaps that have been left out by the main stream media (Bryeunade, 2010). Alternative media is able to monitor the news information from a wide range of providers including commercial media sources (Atton & Hamilton, 2008). A large number of people can be involved in this monitoring process whereby they analyse, evaluate and discuss the information presented by other media (Atton & Hamilton, 2008). Internet based projects such as indymedia and technology news site such as Slashdot have managed to develop multi-perspective journalism which brings together breaking news, commentary and alternative journalists (Atton & Hamilton, 2008). This has allowed the publication of multiple voices which promotes a very different phenomenon (Atton & Hamilton, 2008). This is because these news articles are not presented within a limited viewpoint of the journalist.
Blogs combine the individual approach often found in fanzines with social responsibility of local alternative journalism (Atton & Hamilton, 2008). Bloggers provide their news narratives views and commentary from the perspective of an individual (Atton & Hamilton, 2008). Blogs can usually carry out a number of practices such as publishing of personal diaries by professionals such as politicians and journalists; eye witness reporting and armature investigative journalism , comment and opinion(Atton & Hamilton, 2008). Today amateur blogs are recognized as reliable sources of breaking news and have sometimes done so ahead of the mainstream news organisations. Bloggers are very important in modern day journalism. They continue to press the expert journalists to reassess and re-tool what they do (Atton & Hamilton, 2008). News organisations are incorporating blogs into their reporting systems and are also sourcing information from bloggers. In this respect blogs can be viewed as journalistic tools and the blogger as armature journalists.
Today alternative journalism also comprises of social networking sites such as Myspace and Facebook (Atton & Hamilton, 2008). Radio stations and television networks have set up accounts on these social networks where they collect the opinions of the general public and also release news. Fanzine writers on the other hand work within a framework that is entirely independent from the mainstream media (Atton & Hamilton, 2008). Fanzine journalism often addresses issues that have been ignored by mainstream journalism. Fanzines often draw attention to new and emerging cultural activities which have been considered as unfashionable (Atton & Hamilton, 2008). Fanzines do not target broad audiences and prefer to cultivate and consolidate a special audience. Fanzines sites can be very credible and reliable and may cultivate a loyal audience from different regions. For instance, credible music fanzines are likely to obtain interviews from artists directly, surpassing the public relations professionals (Atton & Hamilton, 2008). Fanzines are often dominated by comments and opinions and may include cartoons satire and jokes (Pavlik, 2001). However, unlike local alternative journalism, fanzines draw most of their information from the local, national and international media as well press releases (Atton & Hamilton, 2008). Unlike local alternative journalism there is no evidence of investigative and original reporting.
One of the strengths of alternative journalism is its resistance to homogenization (Atton & Hamilton, 2008). Alternative journalism is characterized by diversity and difference. Alternative journalism has also influenced mainstream journalism positively. Practices that seemed to be experiments by alternative journalists such as blogs are today relevant in mainstream journalism (Atton & Hamilton, 2008). The rise of citizen journalism and user created content has posed a challenge to professional news organisations (Atton & Hamilton, 2008). Currently these organisations are keeping an eye on blogs by developing their own blogs where they allow their readers and viewers to comment and give their opinions relating to the content that is provided by these stations. The unevenness in commercial developments has limited the growth of alternative journalism. Some regions of the globe have limited access to infrastructure and may not have access to alternative journalism. Digital means of alternative journalism can only play a marginal role in the foreseeable future to many areas of the world especially in Africa and may only be available to intellectuals living in the urban areas (Atton & Hamilton, 2008).
The audience is picking up the internet as a reliable way of obtaining information and the level of gratification has increased over the years with text on the internet now becoming a substitute of printed medium (Mathew, 2008). The ability to combine text, pictures and voice has added strength to the ability of the internet to convey information (Mathew, 2008). Journalism has been greatly affected by the emergence of the internet and technology. The audience today is able to criticize articles that are published online. Journalists have also benefitted because they are now able to target a wider audience and can publish their articles easily. The ubiquity of the internet has promoted the use of alternative journalism as a source of knowledge for the global population. The growth of the internet is in the infancy change and journalism will change with the development of technology and advancement in internet usage.