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State Of The News Media Not So Great In 2008

One finding of the report is that news Web sites are no longer final destinations and search has become the dominant paradigm for dealing with information online.

In its most recent report, "The State of the News Media 2008," the Project on Excellence in Journalism finds that the news industry is changing rapidly and not necessarily for the better.

One of the report's major findings is that news is transforming from an information product into an empowerment service.

"There is no single or finished news product anymore," the report says. "As news consumption becomes continual, more new effort is put into producing incremental updates, as brief as 40-character e-mails sent from reporters directly to consumers without editing."

In keeping with this trend, the report argues that the journalist's assignment shifts from story telling and agenda setting to helping people find information they're looking for and evaluate it, using tools of their own choosing.

Another finding of the report is that news organizations and news Web sites are no longer final destinations. Search has become the dominant paradigm for dealing with information online and, as a consequence, every Web page should provide ways to access search tools and other information services.

"That means every page of a Web site -- even one containing a single story -- is its own front page," the report says. "And each piece of content competes on its own with all other information on that topic linked to by blogs, 'digged' by user news sites, sent in e-mails, or appearing in searches."

It's a fair observation. Widgets and embeddable applications are making domain-based distinctions disappear. Why go to the YouTube site, for example, when YouTube videos and comments are now available at any site?

The report also finds that citizen media sites have become gatekeepers, a practice associated with mainstream media sites. "[R]ather than rejecting the 'gatekeeper' role of traditional journalism, for now citizen journalists and bloggers appear for now to be recreating it in other places," the report says. In other words, meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

In keeping with that assertion, the report also sees news organizations narrowing their focus rather than expanding it. This is consistent with the popularity of news aggregation sites like Google News, which reward news publishers that cover what everyone else is covering. The result is that news reporting today is often better described as news echoing.

"Cable news, talk radio (and also blogs) tend to seize on top stories (often polarizing ones) and amplify them," the report says. "The Internet offers the promise of aggregating ever more sources, but its value still depends on what those originating sources are providing. Even as the media world has fragmented into more outlets and options, reporting resources have shrunk."

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