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Has the web really changed the world of news?

By kipster in Media
Wed Jan 24, 2001 at 10:31:28 PM EST
Tags: Internet (all tags)

When the web sprung forth into the world, everyone assumed that it would revolutionize the news business. Information would come fast and from all directions. News would become innovative and interactive. Clever forms would spring forth and the tired talking head would wither away.

Now, a few years later it's not clear if much has really changed. The hard news world is surprisingly dry. The Drudge Report continues to shock and occassionally scoop the major media with the blandest page possible. The old establishment like the New York Times offer well designed sites, but they've all stopped experimenting. They used to do so much more so long ago. I remember when NY Times stuff actually had a few Java applets or Macromedia stuff.

There are some high points. Some sport sites like CBS Sportsline and ESPN offer realtime updates about games. Some of the Java and Macromedia tools are pretty cute. Flyzone offers cool, interactive Java tools that do a great job with baseball games, but they haven't moved the technology to basketball or the other sports.

Places like Slashdot and Kuro5hin are interactive sites, but are they much different from talk radio? They're certainly more democratic with their policy of accepting all postings, but they're still just fancy chatrooms.

One of my friends likes to quote the Bible and say, "In the beginning, there was the word." People, he says, love language. Our brains are wired for it. We love to talk, we love to listen to ourselves talk, and occassionally we love to listen to others talk. Words are the most essential tools we have for finding a lover, holding a job, or making friends. Why should it be any different on the web?

He's a bit abstract, but I think his point applies to the news media too. Can we do much better than this? Is this all there is? Or is it just talk?


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Has the web really changed the world of news? | 20 comments (20 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
Yes (3.00 / 4) (#1)
by Wah on Wed Jan 24, 2001 at 03:44:41 PM EST

but only because we are starting to realize that a guy typing at a computer is not all that different that one sitting in front of a camera. And I think it is mostly just starting out, again.

And for me, at least, it has certainly *expanded* the world of news.
Fail to Obey?

The nice thing... (3.75 / 4) (#2)
by skim123 on Wed Jan 24, 2001 at 04:06:07 PM EST

The nice thing about the Web is there is a relatively low entry barrier. Any ol' Joe or Sam can setup a site and preach his news/information/scoops. Without the Web you needed to either be rich/own your own media outlet/know someone in the media biz.

Money is in some respects like fire; it is a very excellent servant but a terrible master.
PT Barnum

And that results in... (2.00 / 1) (#8)
by SIGFPE on Wed Jan 24, 2001 at 05:06:38 PM EST

...sites like im-ur. I'm glad the web doesn't give ol' Joe and Sam any more power than the ability to rant..
[ Parent ]
More sources (3.75 / 4) (#3)
by trust_no_one on Wed Jan 24, 2001 at 04:11:30 PM EST

I think the greatest difference the web has made is that enables me to see a greater number of news sources. I can see multiple stories about the same topic. If a story takes place in a distant city, I can click on a local paper's site to get more detailed coverage than I would get from a national source. The Seattle protests of the WTO comes to mind as an example.

The lack of Java and flash isn't really significant. It turned out both cause more trouble than their worth. They were experiments that failed. It turns out that HTML is sufficient to deliver the news, it loads faster and is less prone to crashing.

I used to be disgusted, now I try to be amused

Interactive NY Times (3.00 / 4) (#4)
by ContinuousPark on Wed Jan 24, 2001 at 04:19:07 PM EST

Actually, the NY Times has some interesting discussion forums via Abuzz. I've posed some questions there and I got pretty interesting answers. In my opinion, the relationship between each article in the paper and the discussion space should be stronger but I think it's a good effort nonetheless. It's better that the stupid boards in zdnn or cnet, anyway.

Access to a variety of views (3.60 / 5) (#6)
by Philipp on Wed Jan 24, 2001 at 04:32:18 PM EST

The web hasen't changed the tradition media like New York Times, and their sites are not what makes the web so unique. The web enable access to different view points and specialized information that would have been otherwise hard to get. You can get your daily fix of financial data, news from Germany, follow the wisdom of doom sayers and decide to laugh it off. And, with kuro5hin you can make your own news. Ain't it great?

alias kn 'killall -9 netscape-communicator'
Disinformation and noise is more of a problem. (3.40 / 5) (#7)
by Mantrid on Wed Jan 24, 2001 at 04:57:33 PM EST

Although there's lots more news available there's also a lot more fake stuff and general nonsense. So it can make any one piece of info a little less acceptable. Perhaps in general though it makes people more cynical (in a good way) and causes people to look into things a bit more instead of automatically accepting what they see on CNN.

Yes, it has. (3.50 / 4) (#9)
by GreenCrackBaby on Wed Jan 24, 2001 at 05:12:22 PM EST

Maybe it hasn't changed things so much for the majority of us, but I bet for people stuck behind things like China's propoganda machine appreciate getting "real" news (if they can get past the gov't blocking of such sites).

As well, it may not have change the content of the news, but I certainly am reading stories I would never have gotten by reading my local paper or watching the local news. That's the real benifit.

Experimental == broken (3.20 / 5) (#10)
by jasonab on Wed Jan 24, 2001 at 05:45:36 PM EST

For me, I love the ESPN applets that keep the game updated, but they've been changing them around over the past year because they're fairly unstable. It might be my browser as well, I don't know, but I personally don't want "innovation" as much as I want information.

As for your friend's quotation, I think he's taking that way out of context. John 1:1 says "In the beginning was the Word..." Note the capital letter. The verse is referring to God the Son, not communication.


America is a great country. One of the freest in the world. -- greenrd
Context? (2.50 / 2) (#11)
by J'raxis on Wed Jan 24, 2001 at 06:01:01 PM EST

As for your friend's quotation, I think he's taking that way out of context. John 1:1 says "In the beginning was the Word..." Note the capital letter. The verse is referring to God the Son, not communication.

I think you were taking that out of context. It just might have been a joke.

-- The Raxis

[ J’raxis·Com | Liberty in your lifetime ]
[ Parent ]

The internet has changed the world... (4.50 / 8) (#12)
by chuqui on Wed Jan 24, 2001 at 06:06:23 PM EST

I think maybe you're missing the forest for the trees. the internet has changed the world, and with it, news.

I've been on the net since, well, since most folks reading this message were in diapers. Bloody forever.

Back in the early 90's, we set up mail lists for fans of various sports teams, including the SF Giants and the brand new, baby San Jose Sharks. A big interest at that point was getting information on teams to out of town fans. A big part of taht mail list was people who committed to typing in box scores and stats from the newspapers.

See, this was in the days before -- gasp -- espn.com, when the out of town fan was stuck with -- gasp -- USA Today. On paper.

The changes the internet has brought have been revolutionary, but at the same time, subtle. You have to really see where we were just a few years ago to understand just what the impact is, because the transformation has been smooth enough that unless you checkpoint yourself and take a close look on where you are and where you've been (assuming you aren't a newbie and don't remember a time before espn.com....)

Here are the key changes:

1) immediacy. If something happens -- you know about it now. You aren't waiting for the evening news to get a 30 second headline, and you aren't waiting for a week until the next issue of Time to arrive. You find out now, and you can find out the details now, too.

2) diversity. If you live in Portland, oregon, you're stuck with the Portland Oregonian (and my sympathies). but if you want more than rip and read news and glowing reports about the Trailblazers, you now how options. If you don't like the political or editorial slants of your local newspaper, you now have options.

3) no geographical limitations. What if you're living in Portland, but you grew up in Chicago? Five years ago, fi you were lucky and rich, you could have the sunday Chicago Tribune mailed to you a week later. today -- you go to the web site.

4) you have a voice. the barrier for entry for YOU becoming "the media" is much lower. You don't need corporate pocketbooks. Which creates a huge ability for people to make their own voice heard, or at least available. That doesn't mean you'll replace the chicago tribune, but you no longer have to BE the chicago tribune.

These changes are revolutionary. It's now possible for me to read the Vancouver Sun on a daily basis about the Canucks if I want, or sneak over to the Dallas Morning News to find out if eddie belfour's been arrested again recently. it's empowerment of a great sort -- because I'm no longer limited to what my local newspaper feels I ought to be interested in. Instead of "all the news that's fit to print", it's "all the news anyone sees fit to print" -- and how much time you want to go find it. But it's not hard to build a set of resources that'll help you find what you want, without the limitations of the local media's willingness to hand it to you.

How can that not be revolutionary?

-- Chuq Von Rospach, Internet Gnome <http://www.chuqui.com> <kuro@chuqui.com> "The first rule of holes: If you are in one, stop digging"
I Agree Completly... (4.00 / 4) (#15)
by CyberQuog on Wed Jan 24, 2001 at 08:23:05 PM EST

Another one you can add to your list is that the news is suddenly in the hands of the people, and not those who own printing presses. One example being from the riots in Seattle. At first, no major media outlet covered it, but people in the riots were posting streaming video and audio from it (I listened from APBNews which also streams police radio from a lot of other cities). As more and more stories came on private individual's sites, the major news started to cover it. The net has open-sourced the news.

[ Parent ]
No... (3.33 / 6) (#13)
by kaitian on Wed Jan 24, 2001 at 06:35:02 PM EST

It hasn't changed the world of news, just made it more accessible. You can get detailed news from all over the world, when before you would only be able to get regional an national news easily. This type of coverage was always there, only now it is consolidated into an easily accessible form.

Try living a week without it (4.50 / 4) (#14)
by Global-Lightning on Wed Jan 24, 2001 at 07:55:29 PM EST

Last January my employer sent me to rural central Pennsylvania for a week for some training. Unfortunately, it was one of the few areas where my excellent, but not-quite-national, ISP didn't have an access number. Thus my only sources of news was television and newspapers.

This was around the same time of the DDOS attacks against Yahoo, Ebay, and other large sites. The coverage on CNN was, to say the least, dismal. If you didn't catch it at the hour or the half hour, then you would have to suffer through 29 minutes of news, chopped into 15, 30, and 60 second blocks. I had to wait for it to cycle through:
national news
business news
the weather
teasers ("stay tuned for the latest on the Yahoo attack")
a fluffy "human interest" story
the fashion report
news "from around the world"
another teaser and more commercials

And finally, after 29 minutes of waiting, headline news. They took all of about 15 seconds to state that yes, some sites were being hit with this new-fangled "denial of service" thingie, and that there may be some hackers behind it. OOooohh.

The next morning USA Today regurgitated what I knew from the CNN report (that is, very little) but it came with some fancy graphics.

The web overcomes the major shortcomings of broadcast and print news:
Broadcast news is constrained by a window of time (typically 30 minutes) where it must linearly pass news and commercials. The coverage is geared towards appealing to the greatest number of viewers, therefore it seldom goes in depth (doing so would also consume precious time) and tends to be heavily dependent on visuals and soundbites.
To its advantage broadcast news can be updated quickly. However, it's also prone to sacrifice quality control when a story is extremely hot.

Print news can go into fine detail. Readers are allowed to choose what reports to read and can ignore everything else. Furthermore, stories typically begin generalized and become more detailed, allowing the reader to determine the depth of coverage. The only limit to coverage is the number of pages in the publication. It's main disadvantage it that it's only updated daily, weekly, or monthly.

Web based news combines the best of print and broadcast: a non-linear format allows you to choose what stories to read, which are updated on a frequent basis. However, it's also prone to dropping accuracy on hot stories.

In other areas the web leaves other news sources way behind. There is no better place to get 'niche' news. Topics that are too specialized, esoteric, or controversial to be covered by other sources readily find homes on the web. Customizable news portals allow users to fine-tune exactly what they want to a degree impossible with other formats.

internet news (3.50 / 2) (#16)
by Delirium on Wed Jan 24, 2001 at 08:34:38 PM EST

I don't entirely agree. I've at times gone a month or so without internet access, and I find the quality of the news I read during that time period to be at least as good, if not better, as the quality of news I usually read.

The internet has some interesting stuff, but as a reliable news source sites like Slashdot are not exactly comparable to real-world news outlets like CNN. In particular, in-depth and reliable news magazines like the Economist really have no parallels online (unless you count www.economist.com =P).

I really don't see much advantage to a news website over a print news magazine except for search capabilities. Personally I prefer to read print magazines (though I end up doing quite a bit of reading at nytimes.com, cnn.com, and economist.com as well simply because I'm on the computer so much).

[ Parent ]

Differences (4.00 / 1) (#17)
by aphrael on Wed Jan 24, 2001 at 10:33:31 PM EST

I've at times gone a month or so without internet access, and I find the quality of the news I read during that time period to be at least as good, if not better, as the quality of news I usually read.

Yes ... and no. :)

What I find I get out of internet-based news, as opposed to tv/radio/newspaper, is this:

  • Accessibility. I can always get the news story I want on the net, whereas in broadcast media I have to wait around for it.
  • Specialization. Broadcast media give news packaged for the average person; if I want something detailed and specific about an area I happen to know a lot about --- say, political movements in the Czech Republic, or the current events in the Philippines, I can get detailed targetted information from online sources that i'd never be able to get in a mass-market news medium.
  • Localization. Because of the news i'm interested in, this is closesly related to the previous point (for me) --- I can get local news from anywhere in the western, and good portions of the second and third, worlds, online. I could read translations of news reports by B92 (the revolutionary radio station in Beograd) and the Yugoslav government; I could read news reports from the philippines during the recent coup; I can get the latest Sueddeutsche Zeitung reporting on the scandal plaguing Joschka Fischer ... which is far above and beyond what broadcast would give me.

[ Parent ]
news (3.00 / 1) (#18)
by Delirium on Wed Jan 24, 2001 at 10:52:31 PM EST

Well, you're comparing the internet, a generally "pull" medium, to broadcast TV, the epitome of a "push" medium. Wouldn't it be more accurate to compare internet news to print news? While some of your points apply to this comparison as well (it is harder, for example, to get very obscure foreign news unless you are interested enough in it to subscribe to an overseas newspaper), you generally can get a large percentage of the information you want from a good news magazine and/or newspaper. I don't really have enough time to read every article in the newspapers and magazines I subscribe to, so it is a process of looking for the news that interests me, much as things work online.

[ Parent ]
Yes, it has contributed (4.00 / 3) (#19)
by PresJPolk on Thu Jan 25, 2001 at 12:05:46 AM EST

Once upon a time, there was something known as the news cycle. Newspapers put out news once a day, in the morning or evening. Television news was once a day, in the evening.

CNN started the change. Instead of showing news once a day, CNN had to find things *all the time*.

Then Internet news came. Suddenly, news of any kind will be available to the users all the time. Instantly. Therefore, television news has to be the same way. They have to be ready 24 hours a day to cover a story, or else they'll seem stale, and lose viewers.

OK, that shows how the internet made the news faster. But, how did it change the news otherwise? Well, once you hacw 3 or 4 24 hour news networks, and a bunch of news internet services, you have to have content to fill all of that airtime/html space.

So, the result is a bunch of pseudo-news, and a lot of hype about nothing. I guess you could say that in addition to making the news faster and more accessable, the internet has diluted the quality of news, but only indirectly.

I wouldn't have it any other way, though.

Feedback. Lots o' feedback. (5.00 / 1) (#20)
by Apuleius on Fri Jan 26, 2001 at 02:05:09 AM EST

In the bad old days, a newspaper could print articles and not worry about fact-checking beyond the risk of a. humilitation from rival papers (low risk) or b. a lawsuit (which has to be truly egregious). COrrections could be printed somewhere ludicrously obscure, and it was a pain in the ass just to persuade an editor to do that much. Hence the saying "Do not pick a fight with the man who buys ink by the barrel."

Nowadays, the risks behind defaming, or inaccurate reporting (in the text media -- television is a lost cause), force much better research. Furthermore, a news web site is obliged to go back to an original story and link to a correction (or else be outclassed by SLashdot.)

That is one thing I noticed and like about the new media.

There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
Nuzhound (5.00 / 1) (#21)
by Paul Dunne on Fri Jan 26, 2001 at 06:02:21 AM EST

Take a site such as Nuzhound. Every day, this site carries links to articles on the subject of interest (the North of Ireland) from those British, Irish and American newspapers that have a web presence. How would you get the same service in print form? Imagine subscribing to all those papers, checking them each morning, clipping the articles of interest... Yes, it could be done, and some people have employed private secretaries or a clippings service to do just this; but look how much easier the Web makes it. Even checking the Web version of each paper in turn is quite a drag. Nuzhound makes it so much easier and quicker to keep an eye on what the papers are saying. I dare say this can't be the only service of its type, though I don't know of any others.
Has the web really changed the world of news? | 20 comments (20 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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