I recently completed a paper for submission to the AEJMC conference in Denver proposing a typology for online journalism models. In doing this, I spent a lot of time thinking about journalism and its changing definition. But my instructor, Norm Lewis, correctly pointed out today that I tried to classify changes in journalism as being prompted by technology rather than its practitioners or audiences.
So what really does prompt changes to the definition of journalism? Is it the preferences of the audience or the framing of those telling the news? The chicken or the egg?
I think what is interesting about journalism now is that audience members have become the journalists, using the Internet to shape the news in ways that they see fit. No technological innovation has ever before extended this possibility of interaction, blurring the lines between audience member and journalist.
The Kansas state legislature just extended journalism protections formerly enjoyed solely by “professional journalists” to journalists online, including those who work for media outlets as well as bloggers and other independent reporters. They defined “journalists” as anyone:
“in the regular business of newsgathering and disseminating news or information to the public.”
Wow! That certainly opens some doors.
Many researchers link the definition of journalism to ideologies adhered to by its practitioners. But online journalists don’t have to adhere to those ideologies of accuracy, objectivity, and general journalism ethics.
So where does that leave us? Standing at the crossroads of a new type of journalism model that makes interactivity unavoidable and information fair game for all to disseminate and interpret as they see fit.