Editor's note: The Internet is reshaping many things - two of the biggest are how we shop and communicate. For journalists, the Internet is an indispensable tool. It gives us unparalleled access to information. It allows us to connect with sources we ordinarily would have no access to. We can do extensive research. And we can access, post and send large amounts of information at speeds that weren't even dreamed of 5 or 10 years ago.
But with any new technology, there are other effects on society. Some of these are just starting to surface. Two areas worth mentioning: freedom of expression and our right to privacy. There is an ongoing debate over whether people should be allowed to post items anonymously - even if those comments defame the reputation of a business or individual. Another major area that has come into question is the accuracy of the information we are viewing. The two go hand-in-hand. Since anyone can post whatever they want, they can use the Internet to settle a score. Some people engage in this behavior. For the viewer, it is often difficult to determine the accuracy of what has been posted. Is it true? Is it a product pitch?
Sometimes it is hard to tell what is true and what is false. In the past, information was edited, checked and reporters were called upon to attribute their sources. This is not to say there never was a problem with the information. But media organizations (newspapers, TV stations, etc.) had rigorous policies dealing with corrections. Bad journalists were weeded out.
In the Internet world, everyone is a journalist (re: citizen journalists). Everyone has a megaphone. It is easy to disguise yourself and the true intention of what you are posting.
Some might argue that the Internet encourages people to post whatever they want no matter what it says (True or False).
Beyond mere opinion, the Internet offers financial incentives. The more outrageous the information, the more inflammatory the opinion, the more risque the video - the more attention (hits/views) the information receives. More views translates into an ability to reap financial profits in the form advertising.
The impact of this shift in behavior is just starting to emerge. You will read about later in this quarter about a businessman who loves it when people attack his practices and file complaints online because it improves his ranking in Google, leading to more customers. It may be perverse, but it works.
female teens who transmit naked photos of themselves in an effect to gain attention (and acceptance) from male teens. The story I have posted here from the New York Times deals with an entire industry that is emerging designed to erase a digital past. The negative information may be true or untrue. We are all aware of Internet hoaxes .
But there is a social cost here, too. If someone posts negative (or untrue) information about you online, it can be harmful to you in both your social and professional life. What do you do? Internet posts can't easily be erased.I would like you to review this post and the links I have provided here. Next, I would like each of you to comment (and post) your thoughts about the challenges we face as journalists in an Internet era.
Journalists are required to check and make sure the information they use is factual and by all means accurate. But if much of the information we read/view is provided by people with an axe to grind and is filled with personal opinion and innuendo, how can we reliably use that information? How do we sort our whether what is simply reprocessed information with a new "spin" or angle?
And are we best serving the public by using secondary sources (another story or post) in any story we write or post we make? Doesn't the Internet in some ways make our job harder because of the difficulty it poses in checking the original source of a tip, post or story? Please post your thoughts and be detailed in your answers. - MT
NYT -THE Internet never forgets.
Just ask the New York City teacher who recently divorced his wife of five years. Drop his name into Google, and his ex-wife appears in pictures of vacations and Christmas parties. “It’s difficult when you’re trying to date and your ex is still in the picture, so to speak,” said the teacher, who didn’t want to make matters worse by having his name in a newspaper.
The same goes for Bryan, an advertising executive in New York City. He is an accomplished online marketer and New York University professor, but search his name, and one of the first Web results is a press release from the United States attorney’s office. Eight years earlier, he was charged with wrongfully receiving 9/11 grant money. “Even after all these years,” those links remained, said Bryan, who paid a $2,000 fine.
And then there is the Philadelphia physiologist who became unwittingly linked to a consumer advocacy site, when it listed him as a graduate of a distance learning school that was shut down. “I felt totally victimized because there was nothing I could do,” said the physiologist, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he did not want added attention. “My case load started to dry up.”
At first, some tried manipulating the Web results on their own, by doing things like manually deleting photos from Flickr, revising Facebook pages and asking bloggers to remove offending posts. But like a metastasized cancer, the incriminating data had embedded itself into the nether reaches of cyberspace, etched into archives, algorithms and a web of hyperlinks.
After failing to rid the negative sites on their own, most turned to a new breed of Web specialists known as online reputation managers, who offer to expunge negative posts, bury unfavorable search results and monitor a client’s virtual image.
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