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Hypergene MediaBlog » Web Journalism: Practice and Promise of a New Medium
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Web Journalism: Practice and Promise of a New Medium

Web JournalismLast month we received copies of a new textbook by James Glen Stovall, Web Journalism: Practice and Promise of a New Medium (Pearson Allyn & Bacon, 240 pg.) The author had been kind enough to dedicate three pages in the book to our Amazoning The News concept.

Stovall, a University of Alabama journalism professor since 1978, does an excellent job in the book presenting the qualities of the online medium (capacity, flexibility, immediacy, permanence and interactivity) in the context of maintaining traditional journalism values. In a section on interactivity (pg. 11), Stovall explains that while news sites have only just begun to explore techniques for channelling user contributions and feedback, this will become an increasingly important part of journalism.

"This new relationship will have profound effects on the way journalists gather information and make decisions. Readers are likely to become sources of information and lead journalists to new inquiries and stories. They could provide valuable perspective to journalists who are new to a story or not part of the community they cover (two of the major criticism of journalists today), offering points of view that journalists would not normally hear in talking with “official” sources about their stories. The public journalism movement (often called civic journalism), which seeks to involve the community in journalistic decision making, could be taken to a new level with the Web."

What’s remarkable is how well he understands and presents participatory journalism. In a section called, “Weblogs: A New Form of Journalism?” (pg. 32), he writes:

”… on some topics, weblogs are a source of up-to-date information that no media organization attempts to match. In addition, weblogs have an inherent respect for their audiences and take advantage of their wide-ranging knowledge and expertise. While contributions may not come from trained journalists and may not be vetted through a traditional editing process, weblogs offer the possibility of presenting a much wider range of points of view about information than would be possible in the traditional media."

Instead of seeing the Internet as merely another distribution channel, Stovall talks about how “web journalists will be looking for ways to build their audiences into communities of interested participants.”

"The idea of an Internet community is something of a radical departure for traditional journalistic thinking. These ‘communities’ may be short-term and topic-oriented. They may not be confined to the geographic areas that have traditionally defined audiences for journalists. They are likely to dissipate once the issue that brought the individuals together fades. On the other hand, they may survive and thrive beyond the control or the participation of the journalist who began them."

Stovall, the author of several textbooks (Writing for Mass Media, The Complete Editor and Infographics: A Journalist’s Guide), readily admits that journalism will change because of the web, though like all of us, he is unsure how. In the interim, his book does an excellent job a preparing students how writing, reporting, editing, graphics, photography and design are different online.

Unfortunately, the book retails for $40 (US) – a bit absurd for a 6x9 inch, 240 pg. trade paperback, don’t you think? Wait and see if you can get a used version online or at your local university bookstore. For best prices new, you might check:

Related online journalism textbooks
We’re not experts on today’s classroom texts, but we put this bibliography of similar books mainly to hear your thoughts. Please email or post your comments on any of these.

Digital Journalism: Emerging Media and the Changing Horizons of Journalism
Edited by Kevin Kawamoto (Rowman & Littlefield, Oct. 2003); Publisher’s page

Journalism Online
By Mike Ward (Focal Press, March 2002)

Online Journalism: A Critical Primer
By Jim Hall (Pluto Press, April 2001)

Journalism and New Media
By John Vernon Pavlik (Columbia University Press; Aug. 2001)

Going Live: Getting the News Right in a Real-Time, Online World
By Philip M. Seib (Rowman & Littlefield, (Sept. 2002)

Introduction to Online Journalism: Publishing News and Information
By Roland De Wolk (Pearson Allyn & Bacon, Jan. 2001)

Journalism in the Digital Age: Theory and Practice for Broadcast, Print and Online Media
by John Herbert (Focal Press, Nov. 1999)

Behind the Message: Information Strategies for Communicators
By Nora Paul and Kathleen A. Hansen (Pearson Allyn & Bacon, July 2003); Publisher’s page
The successor to Search Strategies in Mass Communication teaches you how to gather information and evaluate sources.

Sidebar: Why can’t publishers get book information right?
When we published our book on e-commerce web site design last year, we were a bit astonished at how frequently certain data points about our book were wrong on various web sites. For those of you haven’t been inside the book biz, about 6-12 months before a book is published, a book is pre-sold on the basis of a sample which includes: book name, a table of contents, a sample chapter, and other micro data. This information is never exact, so sites like have information that is ultimately wrong, once the book is published.

Online book sellers cannot be blamed. It’s the publisher’s responsibility, and for some reason, this must not be a high priority. Stovall’s book suffers this fate. For example, on the publisher’s web page:

• The page count is wrong. Says 256. It’s really 240.
• Table of Contents is wrong. It has Chapter 14 including sections called “The End of Journalism as We Know It” and “Will Newspapers Survive?” These are not in the final product.
• Companion web site link is 404 Not Found.

On, the title is called Journalism on the Web instead of Web Journalism. We’re not exactly sure why publishers aren’t a bit more careful with their products. Some of these books take years to write. Why not take a little more time with the promotional material that sells the book and get it right?

Posted on Nov 06, 2003 | 5:24 am EST

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