The Integrated Newsroom The Integrated Newsroom abstract methodology references
resources about the author keshvani online
The Integrated Newsroom site index australia CIT climate age online findings overview of online journalism
singapore CIT climate straits times findings content analysis discussion
Literature Review
The Telegraph Network
Modern-Day Internet
Theories relevant to online journalism
WWW - An interactive medium
The not too distant future

Chapter 2: Literature Review

An Overview of Online Journalism and Online Newspapers

This chapter examines the existing literature relevant to the integrated newsroom and explores key issues pertinent to this field. In line with this area of research, it singles out four entities particularly relevant to the online news production process - the product, producer, audience and publisher. Limited studies have examined the World Wide Web (WWW), and its impact on journalism and journalists' work practices holistically. Since this research area is in its infancy, the author felt it necessary to give the reader as complete an understanding of the issues surrounding the Internet as possible. This background aims to provide a foundational understanding of online journalism and the WWW, and to assist readers in grasping the accelerating pace of this new technology and sensing its vibrancy.

The review begins with a brief parallel between the modern-day Internet and 1800s telegraph communication technology sometimes referred to as the 'Victorian Internet'. It continues by exploring key theories relevant to online journalism and proceeds to highlight industry and academic opinion associated with the four main players, upcoming new technology and the industry's future directions.

2.1 The Telegraph Network

Tunnelling through history is almost always an interesting exercise, especially when observing our progress in terms of technology. Few people realise that the concept behind the Internet as a link of networks, is not entirely recent and certain current developments have similar characteristics to technology of yesteryear (Deuze 1999; Standage 1999; Fidler 1998).

There are distinct similarities between today's information superhighway and the 19th century electric telegraph, dubbed the 'highway of thought'. The telegraph allowed users to communicate almost instantly across expansive distance, shrinking the world faster and further than ever before. A worldwide communications network whose cables spanned


continents revolutionised business practices, giving rise to new forms of crime, and submerging its users into an information overload (Standage 1998, p.VII - VIII).

Modern computers exchange bits and bytes along network cables; telegraph messages were spelled out in dots and dashes of Morse code and sent along wires by human operators. The equipment may have been different, but the impact on the lives of its users were strikingly similar . Modern Internet users are in many ways the heirs of the telegraphic tradition, which means that today we are in a unique position to understand the telegraph. And the telegraph, in turn, can give us a fascinating perspective on the challenges, opportunities, and pitfalls of the Internet.

(ibid p.VIII)

Early users of the modern Internet were engineers and academics with specialised knowledge, before it became available to a larger audience. In the WWW context, Schwartz (1997, p.15) describes this penetration as the "water cooler effect". In 1994, techno-savvy office workers with high-speed networks in large corporations began habitually browsing the WWW after reading or hearing about this mysterious information superhighway. This aroused their curiosity and instead of the usual quick chat with colleagues next to the water cooler, they would use these breaks to surf the WWW. Similarly, the telegraph's early users were skilled operators trained in Morse code and able to send messages efficiently. It was only later with the introduction of the automatic telegraph that the technology was modified for mass use (Standage 1998, p.189). In time, a new telegraphic jargon emerged and instead of laboriously spelling out each word, conventions arose where telegraphers spoke to each other over the wires using short abbreviations. For example, "I I" (dot dot, dot dot) stood for "I am ready"; or "S F D", for "Stop for dinner" (ibid p.65). The equivalent of such jargon on the Internet today include "btw" meaning "by the way" or "nvm" for "nevermind".

Telegraph operations did have its 'down time', when operators did not have any messages to transmit. However, online interaction continued in the form of jokes, stories and local gossip circulating over the wires (ibid p.132). The modern-day equivalent to this is electronic mail or e-mail, where personal messages, jokes and stories are exchanged. Experienced telegraph operators began to develop their own identity by the style of their morse code, and a two-letter signature or 'sig', to identify themselves, "a Detroit operator named Mills, for example used the signature MS" (ibid p.130). There is a similar trend today in online chat rooms, where users identify themselves and each other with a 'nick' or nickname.

Like any new invention, efforts were made to profiteer from the telegraph. In numerous cases, scheming individuals attempted to send or receive stock market or horse race information before they were officially announced. This information, which would have taken days or months to arrive prior to the telegraph, was drastically speeded up and bids were made to use this information illegally. Inspector John Bonfield of the Chicago Police, declared to the Chicago Herald in 1888 that, "the educated criminal skims the cream from every new invention, if he can make use of it". It provided unscrupulous individuals with unique opportunities for fraud, theft and deception (ibid p.105 - 126). Today computer crime, security issues and hacking are primary concerns for businesses on the Internet.

Newspapers quickly realised the benefits of efficiently transmitting information and news across this network. They formed newspaper groups sharing resources for economic reasons, placing reporters and correspondents in strategic locations, to relay important news stories back via telegraph for use by member newspapers. News agencies and wire services were founded based on this principle. In Europe, Paul Julius von Reuter realised some information was more valuable than others, particularly for businessmen. He placed representatives in towns in Aix-La-Chapelle and Brussels, where they took the latest prices of bonds, stocks and shares, and sent them back by homing pigeons to Reuter who compiled summaries and delivered them to his subscribers. Reuter began to use the electric telegraph when England and France were linked (ibid p.150 - 151). Besides the obvious similarities of commerce, information and crime, it is noteworthy to acknowledge the birth of various telegraph communities and compare them with today's virtual communities and other cultural and social phenomenon which do not fall into the framework of this study.



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