Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Inernet as news 'source'?

This lede from the Pew Research Center:

The internet, which emerged this year as a leading source for campaign news, has now surpassed all other media except television as a main source for national and international news.
Hmmm, Internet as news "source"?

It seems to me there's a fundamental terminology problem here.

While newspapers are, yes, a "medium," generally a newspaper (for reasons largely having to do with the cost of presses, ink, paper and distribution) is merely the outward embodiment of a news organization -- the actual "source." Likewise "television." So we can comingle the terminology without doing too much damage to clarity (though we still seriously dent accuracy).

But the Internet is the outward embodiment of .... what? Well, news organizations, yes. But also aggregation sites, bloggers, pr agencies, ad agencies, corporations -- technically, anyone with a computer. To call the Internet a "source" really does start to mangle the term.

In this context, newspaper, television and online are all methods of distribution - media. But perhaps it's time to re-examine our looseness with the language when it comes to online. If Pew is going to talk about sources, it needs to start breaking out what those specific sources are online, at least by type.

I'm not suggesting this as any sop to newspapers or broadcasters. I am suggesting we no longer really can be this sloppy with the terminology.

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At 12/25/08, 6:23 PM, OpenID Tom said...

Funny you say this (or actually, I'm thrilled you blogged about it), as it was the first thing I was thinking before I even read past the abstract for the story. While some of this could be semantics (newspapers as the generic, the Internet as the generic), I think it's important to note that people are still ultimately getting a lot of their news VIA the Internet from TV, radio, newspapers, blogs, etc. Great post.

At 12/25/08, 10:39 PM, Blogger Doug Fisher said...

Thanks, Tom. Great to hear from you. Hope all is well "up northeast" and that the holidays are good ones for you.

At 12/27/08, 12:51 PM, Blogger Janine said...

Very few newspapers print actual source documents, TV and radio have excerpts of interviews.

So yes, the internet does have more actual sources than any other medium.

At 12/27/08, 4:00 PM, Blogger Doug Fisher said...


Yes. But that doesn't make the Internet a "source" per se.

It's a conduit for myriad sources.

For instance, in your example, I would find it very enlightening to know if, indeed, people were seeking out original documents, databases, etc., online. I think relatively few do.

And while the link to the document might come through search, it also might come through another site.

My point was that the Internet is a collection of sources, as I think you suggest. To call it a "source" and thus suggest it is monolithic is inaccurate.


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