“We the Media” Response 2

In light of the new direction journalism is taking after the advent of the Internet, a new discourse of ethical guidelines come into question.  This, as explained by Dan Gillmor, is what is now being understood through trial and error.  Yet Gillmor and I share the same understanding that the same foundations of “accuracy, fairness and ethical standards” that are at the heart of print journalism should be applied equally to online journalism.  The fact that the Internet is an open source of information does put a lot of faith in the hope of honest practice.  Violations do and will continue to occur, but with this powerful tool at our fingertips, honest and ethical use can only continue Internet journalism success–abuse will only hinder its credibility.

This reliance on citizen journalist integrity is integral, but steps are being taken to ensure that abusers are prosecuted.  Yet, the jurisdiction done so far on Internet cases, as explained in chapter 10, are hazy and inconsistent.  It seems to me that technology is advancing far too quickly for the processes of law.  There is such an influx of information that it is hard for people to even catch fraudulent information quick enough for it not to have an effect.  This is an issue that is holding back online journalism from reaching its full potential.  As Gillmor explains, a program needs to be made to grade a writer’s credibility.  Until this is done, I agree with him that we need to be skeptical and truly take much of what we read with a grain of salt.

But there is going to have to be a time (very soon, I believe) when this “cyber liberty” needs to be regulated.  Otherwise, “trolls” and downright do-badders will continue to taint what could be a beautiful thing.  As the newspaper withers away on its death bed, I am putting my own career hopes in the rebirth of journalism.  Yet, a Joe Shmo in Podunk, Missouri can write whatever he wants and further desecrate the clean slate online journalism now has.  This is a definite flaw in an otherwise unstoppable and amazing system.

Yet individuals make a miniscule dent in the process.  As Gillmor explains in chapter 11, government and big business pose as major threats to this “cyber liberty” and do “slow any advancements” trying to be made.  The U.S. is definitely lower on the list of Internet censorship than say, China, but a frightening fact still remains that our individual Internet activity can be monitored by businesses and our government in the form of cookies.  As intrusive as the Patriot Act, this online marker of my Internet activity is easily forgotten when surfing the web, but when reminded of it in my reading of this book, I’m brought back to the fact that I’m constantly being watched based on what I look at–a scary thought.

Yet what troubles me most personally is the copyright wars going on.  Having been personally targetted for “illegal file sharing” of music on Limewire, this issue is a thorn in my side.  The entertainment industry has “spun” this unstoppable trend with the negative image that their music, media or book is being stolen.  I agree that it’s not OK to go into a download a movie and sell copies of it on a street corner, but I also think the entertainment industry needs to stop playing victim and trying to hinder the progression of technology and sharing and use these advancements to benefit them somehow.  Maybe that’s a little idealistic, but continually trying to clamp down information sharing is obtrusive and pointless, as it is only going to continually get more and more comprehensive.

Yet when taking copyright issues out of the individual context and putting it in the journalistic arena, the problems are much greater.  As Gillmor highlights, having to ask permission to use a piece of copyrighted material (in quoting or background information) will almost put journalistic endeavors to a halt, especially the “grassroots” journalism burgeoning online today.  But I believe technology will come out the victor, as people part of this new communication process are more passionate about maintaining their freedom than Big Business is to keep it at bay.  And I hope technology and “net denizens” do prevail, because the new advent of journalism is exciting and has infinite potential for unimaginable things to come.

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