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The Future of Online Journalism

Journalism, as we know it is changing forever. Publications across the world no longer exist in the print form alone. At the same time, major newspapers in the western world are seeing a complete end to their existence in the print format. In March, earlier this year, the San Francisco Chronicle, had a bleak future as its parent company didn’t succeed in finding a buyer and Rocky Mountain News, Denver published its last issue on Feb. 27.

Even though online journalism is a relatively new phenomenon, technological advances have been modifying and adding new dimensions to it. The blog which was earlier viewed only as an online diary is today seen as an important outlet to transmit news and updates to a global audience; and with Wordpress, Blogspot etc providing templates to create a blog, being an online journalist is easy. The power of blogs is being realized; especially in countries such as China and Malaysia where blog censorship is prevalent. Last year, all 21 Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in the country were ordered to block the Website of Malaysia Today, the country’s leading blog. And most of the time, words are not required. Horrific photos of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks were put up hours after the incident. A simple Google search of “Mumbai 26/11 blogs” yields 1,350,000 results!

Indeed, blogs, portals like YouTube and a thirst for ‘immediate updates’ has given rise to the Citizen Journalist. These are clear indicators of the bright future of online journalism, as technology and the internet penetrate masses better; especially in a country like India where the internet has touched base only with the urban populations. However, apart from the advantages of immediacy of news, freedom of expression and freedom from monopoly of the trade practices of print houses, there are worrying aspects associated with online journalism. The Internet or cyberspace is vast and endless, and is getting bigger by the minute as more websites, blogs and other portals are added.

BlogHerald.com lists the growing number of blogs as 100,000 blogs per day! This clearly demonstrates the difficulty in controlling the information that is disseminated into cyberspace. Monitoring of news and information will pose a huge challenge in the times to come. There also remains a doubt in credibility of information. The very fact that Wikipedia allows easy creation, and editing of information, poses a question on its credibility. Online journalism also brings to the surface an important question- How will you define a journalist? Will it mean that in future, just about anyone who has access to internet, is present at the site of activity will be considered a journalist?

Despite these threats, the immediacy, easy accessibility and freedom of expression has and will continue to attract both readers and online journalists. For now, the single threat to this would emerge if media conglomerates start thinking in the lines of Rupert Murdoch’s idea of charging newspaper websites. Until then, the future remains one of a few challenges, but tremendous hope.

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