|FINDING LIMITS IN CYBERSPACE|
Online, does everything go?
September 8, 1997
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Questions answered in this forum: Will independent cyberjournalists have access to political sources? Shouldn't cybernauts just trust their own judgement? Could newsgroup posts be considered libelous? Could libel suits squelch freedom of speech online? Should libel laws be updated to reflect the digital age? Viewer comments on online credibility
August 28, 1997
The NewsHour reports on questionable news on the 'Net.
December 25, 1996
A panel discussion on how the Internet fared in 1996.
Browse the Online NewsHour's coverage of cyberspace and law.
The U.C.L.A Online Institute for Cyberspace Law and Policy.
Lorenzo Sierra of Mesa, AZ, asks:
I feel the Internet offers journalists a chance to practice journalism in the idealistic manner that drove many people to the profession in the first place. Journalists can report without the burden of having to appease advertisers or coddle their outlet's political "friends."
My questions to the panel are: How do you feel political sources will treat cyberjournalists? How hard will it be for independent cyberjournalists to get to sources without having the backing of existing (and well-known) outlets?
Steve Geimann of the Society of Professional Journalists responds:
Right now, journalists working exclusively online have run into trouble as they seek to be treated the same way as reporters for well-known newspapers and broadcast stations. The Internet will make it easier for online journalists to reach a large audience, but for the moment, at least, they will generally take a back seat to the established press in the political process.
I think this will begin to change when issues covered by online journalists become unique to the medium, rather than parroting what the mainstream press is covering. This will be a major shift, I think, in how people process the news. The Internet allows the ultimate niche publication: your own. To the extent political leaders and other institutions pay attention to such developments, the cyberjournalists will be recognized. Perhaps, the role of online journalists today isn't to duplicate and parrot what the mainstream press does, given its restrictions and limitations.
Instead, online journalists have the freedom to cover very specific issues and topics, in a community with many voices and perspectives.
Prof. Margaret Jane Radin responds:
I suspect that political sources will be very friendly to cyberjournalists to the extent that they feel those journalists have the attention of a significant number of potential voters. So I think the backing of well-known outlets may turn out to be less important than the cyberjournalist's reputation and following on the Net. This presupposes, however, that political sources understand the Net and its power to reach voters. I imagine that right now some of them do and some of them don't.
Shouldn't cybernauts just trust their own judgement online?