Thursday, April 26, 2007

Reader, blogger, journalist? Panel discusses role of 'new media'

by ashley wiehle, the southern
Average citizens partook of the media in decades past, but an ever-growing emergence of "new media" has prompted everyday citizens to actually become the media.

Online news and the shifting definition of media and journalism were the focus of a Wednesday forum sponsored by Southern Illinois University Carbondale's Paul Simon Public Policy Institute.

What those metamorphosed definitions mean for everyday citizens is a new set of media roles decidedly different than the past role of media consumer, said Jan Schaeffer, executive director of J-Lab's New Voices project on citizen journalism.

Citizens with computer access and the desire to be part of the news have taken on the role of news competition, news experts and government watchdogs, Schaeffer said.

The mass shooting at Virginia Tech was an example of how citizen media can often respond to a crisis more intimately and with more details than mainstream media outlets.

Students who witnessed the massacre were uploading videos and firsthand accounts of the incident by the time the news hit the country, Schaeffer said.

"By the end of the day, the students were sophisticated enough to upload photos," Schaeffer said.

Panelist Nick Charles, editor of AOL's Black Voices, said Internet news can deliver specialized news that caters to all interests.

About 1.2 million people log on to the Internet and head first to his site, Charles said. Because of high-volume traffic that is logged, advertising online has proved to be a lucrative business.

"We make pretty good money not just because we do a good job, but because of the advertising," Charles said.

Schaeffer said she believes mainstream media will begin to respond to the growing citizen journalism demand.

"This is the year of the big click," Schaeffer said. "A lot of news organizations are trying to figure out how to get on board."

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