New Media Journalism

John V Pavlik. 21st Century Communication: A Reference Handbook. Editor: William F Eadie. 2009. Sage Publication.

New media journalism emerged in the late 20th cenconvergence of digital, or computer-based, technologies and telecommunications, especially but not limited to the Internet and World Wide Web. New media technologies are reshaping journalism in four basic ways. First, new media are transforming how journalists do their work. Second, new media are producing a restructuring of journalistic organizations and institutions. Third, new media are giving rise to new media content forms. Fourth, new media are leading to the reinvention of the relationships between and among journalists, journalistic organizations, and their many publics, especially these five: audiences, sources, regulators, financers, and competitors. This set of changes is leading to a form of new media journalism with greater citizen involvement and participation in a discourse with journalists, newsmakers, and other citizens. At times, this discourse is little more than opinions and pandering to base interests. But at times, this discourse is reasoned, informed, and refreshing.

Journalism and New Media Technologies

Journalism has long been driven by technological change. The rotary printing press, photography, the telegraph, wireless communications, television, and other technologies have all exerted profound influences over the shape and nature of journalism. It is thus not surprising that new media technologies have facilitated a transformation of journalism in the late 20th and early 21st centuries and the emergence of new media journalism (Boczkowski, 2005).

To understand the influence of new media on journalism, we must first define what we mean by the key terms new media and journalism. Notably, the term media is plural and is a Greek word. Medium is the singular form. Therefore, “new media” are, not is. Journalism refers to the process of gathering, or reporting, current information, or news, from multiple sources (including primarily by interviewing people, reading or reviewing documents, and making direct observation of events, places, or people); editing and fact-checking that news; and distributing (broadcasting, publishing) that news, typically via storytelling forms, but also in other forms, as well as interpreting those facts via analysis or opinion. New media journalism is thus the convergence of new media and journalism into a new form of news reporting in the digital age.

New media emerged in the latter part of the 20th century, with the advent of various digital technologies, especially the Internet and World Wide Web, and also technologies such as digital cameras, satellites, and digital broadcasting. In its most familiar form, new media journalism is synonymous with online journalism. Although this is the most familiar, it is not the only significant part of new media journalism. The new media continue to evolve and represent a changing landscape.

Five Technological Functions

To fully appreciate the nature and scope of new media journalism, it is useful to identify five broad technological functions related to the new media. These five functions are acquisition, storage, processing, distribution, and access or display. For each of these functions, there are a host of specialized new media technologies, although increasingly, convergence is leading to the development of individual devices capable of performing all five functions.


Acquisition refers to the process of gathering information, or data, in various forms, such as audio, images, moving pictures, or written text in the form of a reporter’s notes. Traditionally, reporters’ notes have been the foundation of all reporting. In new media journalism, a reporter’s notes continue to be vitally important but are increasingly in electronic, or digital, form, with reporters typing or otherwise entering (e.g., using an electronic tablet that recognizes handwriting) their notes on handheld or laptop devices. Of course, many other devices are used in news gathering, including primarily digital cameras and digital audio recorders.


Processing refers to the editing of digital content gathered by the reporter. Whether text, audio, images, or video, reporters and editors use computer-based tools to sort, refine, or edit that material from its raw form into stories, graphics, or other formats for ultimate delivery to an audience. Computer-based processing, like all computers, is becoming faster and less expensive, following what is called Moore’s law. Moore’s law specifies that the number of components on a single computer chip doubles every 18 months (Moore, 1965). This essentially means that computers get twice as fast every year and a half. As a corollary to Moore’s law, miniaturization has also swept through the world of computing, as digital devices have become not only more powerful but also much smaller in size. As a result, 2007 saw the emergence of the laptop computer as more prevalent in the marketplace than the desktop computer in the United States. Journalists are also increasingly using laptop computers as their preferred device for processing news in raw data form or refined storytelling format.


Storage refers to the archiving of digital content, initially in its raw form and later in its processed form, for subsequent search and retrieval by either journalists or the lay public. There are many such digital storage devices of increasingly powerful form. Digital storage devices are also subject to the patterns of increasing speed, power, and miniaturization that characterize processing devices. As a result, few reporters go out into the field without one or more powerful miniature digital storage devices. These include USB sticks (universal storage buss) that can hold gigabits of data (billions of bits, 1,000 times a megabit, which is 1,000 times a kilobit, which is 1,000 times a bit). Many devices commonly used by new media journalists, such as digital cameras, cell phones, or handheld computers not only have built-in massive storage capabilities, but they also typically have ports for portable external storage devices. Such portable storage devices are important in journalism because they can be easily slipped into a pocket or past a censor.


Distribution refers to the delivery of digital content, or news, from one location to another, either a short or a long distance. In a new media context, this distribution is typically done over a digital telecommunications network, including the Internet, but also via digital television, other wireless spectrum, or other digital delivery media (such as Bluetooth, a local-area wireless technology). Such distribution systems in journalism are increasingly made secure in the same fashion as banking, satellite or cable television, or other applications. Security is important for a variety of reasons, including not only protecting copyrighted content but also guarding against computer hackers (friendly) or crackers (unfriendly).

Display or Access

Display or access is the final step in new media journalism, although it is the most visible and often thought of as the defining quality of new media journalism. Technologies such as computers, handheld devices, cell phones, and MP3 players (including Apple’s iPod) are among the most common display or access technologies used in new media journalism.

Transforming Journalism in the Age of New Media

New media as described above are reshaping journalism in four basic ways. First, new media are transforming how journalists do their work. Second, new media are producing a restructuring of journalistic organizations and institutions. Third, new media are giving rise to new media content forms. Fourth, new media are leading to the reinvention of the relationships between and among journalists, journalistic organizations, and their many publics, especially these five: audiences, sources, regulators, financers, and competitors.

Transforming How Journalists Work

New media are transforming how journalists do their work. In days past, newspaper reporters relied on principally a telephone, a notepad, and a pencil, with an occasional photographer sent on assignment. In television, reporters typically were accompanied by a videographer and, depending on station size or if a network level, also a sound or lighting technician. In radio, the standard operating equipment was a microphone (lavalier or lapel) and audio recorder. New media have meant a series of changes in the tools reporters bring with them into the field and a corresponding series of changes in how reporters often work. To begin, most reporters, regardless of medium, make heavy use of the Internet and World Wide Web as research tools and e-mail as a communication tool. Reporters also make extensive use of cell phones to reach sources and stay in touch with editors. Many reporters also rely on various handheld devices both in news gathering and in communication. Mobile e-mail or text messaging is commonly used. Reporters will often type a short version of a story while still in the field and e-mail it to an editor for review. One interdisciplinary research project at Columbia University launched in the late 1990s featured the design and field testing of a mobile journalist workstation (MJW), which was in fact a hybrid of news gathering, production, storage, distribution, and display technologies encased in a wearable backpack. The MJW permitted a single reporter to gather news of any type, deliver it wirelessly to a remote location, or display it in geographically annotated format based on the specific coordinates obtained from the global positioning system (i.e., satellite system). Such digital backpack journalism was first conducted by Steve Mann (2008), now Professor of Computing and Electrical Engineering at the University of Toronto. Mann developed the wearable computer in the 1980s and used his convergent system to report on a series of breaking news events and provide stories and photos to local newspapers via wireless data transmission.

Restructuring Journalistic Organizations and Institutions

New media technologies are producing a restructuring of journalistic organizations and institutions. Since at least the 19th century, the newsroom has been the central organizing spine of American and most of the world’s journalism. Editors and other decision makers have operated from the newsroom, meeting with reporters, assigning stories, and editing text, images, audio, and video. The flow of information in and around the newsroom has largely depended on the capabilities and limitations of analog technologies. In the early 20th century, the click and clack of the typewriter and teletype machine were pervasive in virtually any newsroom, especially those of the daily newspaper. Copyboys physically carried from one location to the next the copy, or text, of stories typed by writers or ripped from the teletype machine, where wire-service copy arrived over analog telephone lines and was delivered to the appropriate news desk or editor.

The development of high-speed online technologies, including broadband wireless, as well as increasingly powerful and inexpensive mobile computers and other devices, has brought about a revolution in the modern newsroom. Increasingly, newsrooms are organized in ways that facilitate the production, editing, and distribution of multimedia content in digital form. Sometimes called a converged newsroom or an information center, newsrooms of the past are rapidly disappearing. Typically, any editor can get access to any story, file, or bit of data regardless of its format (i.e., text, audio, video, photo, graphic). As a result, reporters and editors can work much closer to the deadline. They can produce stories for any delivery outlet, whether print, online, television, or radio.

New media have fueled even more radical structural change in American and global journalism. Emerging is what might best be called the virtual newsroom. The virtual newsroom is a journalism structure freed of the physical constraints of a traditional newsroom. A virtual newsroom uses inexpensive yet powerful mobile technologies, including laptop and handheld computers as well as megapixel digital cameras and digital audio recorders. The virtual newsroom takes advantage of the flexibility afforded by broadband wireless technologies. It permits reporters to stay in the field longer while covering more stories, interviewing more sources, and expending little time traveling to and from a central newsroom to meet with editors. News conferences can happen via cell phone or laptop. Stories are filed electronically, regardless of whether they involve text, photos, graphics, video, or audio. Staying in the field while on assignment is of course not a new thing in journalism. Reporters have famously called into a newsroom from just outside a courtroom where a major verdict was just handed down, requesting “re-write.”

Yet mobile broadband has enabled structural change of an entirely new magnitude in new media journalism. New media technologies have made possible the development of unique one-person news operations, or news operations with extremely small staff, mostly freelancers or stringers, who cover local or regional geographic communities, topical domains, or beats at very low cost. There is no need to maintain an expensive central newsroom. With Internet delivery, there is no need to invest in an expensive printing press or television or radio transmission tower or acquire a broadcast license. Instead, entrepreneurial news operations have emerged across the United States and are internationally designed to exploit the capabilities afforded by new media to do quality journalism.

Moreover, because the costs are so low, business models based on small or limited revenues are still viable. Consider the case of, an online news operation founded by a long-time Gannett journalist. Red Bank Green (, accessed January 4, 2008) is a very local online news service produced by John Ward, a veteran newspaper journalist, who in 2006, left the ranks of daily newspaper journalism to pursue his vision of producing quality local journalism delivered online. A two-decade veteran of traditional journalism in the analog media environment, Ward saw an opportunity to reinvent local journalism in the New Jersey community where he lives, Red Bank, through a new news structure, one based on community. His vision is captured in his estimate of the number of stories waiting to be reported: “There are 12,000 people in Red Bank,” Ward says. “That’s at least 12,000 stories.” Ward’s wife, Trish, is a Web-site developer and graphic artist and is responsible for all the design aspects of Red Bank Green. The name of the site is a reference to the extremely local nature of the reporting and the interactive quality of the medium. It is meant as an online village green or commons where people can meet to learn about and discuss what is going on in the town. Ward practices what has long been called shoe-leather reporting, what many consider the hallmark of great journalism. He walks the town and reports. He stops in stores and chats with business owners and customers. He sees people about town and talks with them. He asks them what is going on and what is on their minds. He observes and reports. He tells people’s stories. He has a digital camera and takes pictures and shoots video. He has a digital audio recorder that can record up to 13 hours of audio. He writes and edits on his laptop computer. He has a growing number of advertisers and advertising revenue and hopes to grow the business side of things so it can sustain even more journalism, including investigative reporting. Ward’s goal is not to be objective in the traditional sense of mainstream journalism. That is impossible, he says, although it is a worthy pursuit. Ward writes from his own perspective and in his own style. His goals as a reporter and editor are to be accurate and to be fair.

Producing New Content Forms

New media are giving rise to new media content forms. New technologies have often led to new content forms in journalism. The Frenchman Louis Daguerre’s early-19th-century invention of the Daguerreotype led to the introduction of photography in newspapers. The French Lumiere brothers’ late-19th-century invention of moving pictures led to the popular newsreels of the early 21st century. Italian Guglielmo Marconi’s late-19th-century invention of the wireless led to the development of radio journalism in the early 21st century as well. American Philo Farnsworth’s early-21st-century invention of electronic television led to the development of the most widely seen journalism in the United States, television news. New media are following this long tradition of reshaping news content based on new technological possibilities, only this time in the digital age.

Among the first forms of new news content to emerge in the new media environment was the Web-based newspaper. Online and electronic newspapers had existed in various forms since at least the 1970s, mostly as text with limited graphics. But these primitive, early, online newspapers were radically overhauled with the 1989 invention of the World Wide Web by the English scientist Tim Berners-Lee ( serve several important functions in online news. First, they can offer readers a chance to look at a related Web page for more details or context. Second, they permit readers to see other relevant Web pages that have been previously screened by the reporter for quality, relevance, or appropriateness. Third, they can enable access on demand for the news consumer to multimedia content produced by the news organization or another organization but related to the current page. Fourth, links can serve as a vehicle to facilitate user engagement, such as in an interactive reader poll.

The legendary singer Frank Sinatra’s FBI file entered the public domain on December 10, 1998 (Pavlik & Ross, 2000). Newspapers, television, and radio stations throughout the United States and internationally reported on the release of the report and the allegations it contained. Among the topics reported were Sinatra’s alleged mob connections, his arrest for “seduction,” and his 4F status of psychological instability making him ineligible for the draft during World War II.

Illustrative of the standard journalistic accounting of the 1,300-page file was The New York Times report, which examined these subjects in an approximately 2,500-word account. The report was available in print and online and serves as an exemplar of how most general-interest newspapers or news magazines would approach a story such as this. First, a primary source releases newsworthy information, and second, news organizations report on the report, giving an overview of its contents, noting the highlights, and perhaps adding interviews with key sources.

Contrast this with the approach employed by (a now-unfortunately discontinued news site covering crime and criminal justice). APBnews covered the Sinatra report in pure new media journalism style, employing a range of online media capabilities, including text reporting, interactivity, images, and all 1,300 pages of the FBI Sinatra file electronically scanned and made available online. This put the APBnews report into the full context of the original source material. The New York Times made the Starr report on President Bill Clinton’s affair (running to several hundreds of pages) available on its Web site and in the paper, but it did not publish the Sinatra file online or off. APBnews also didn’t annotate the 1,300-page Sinatra file but featured several side-bar reports about each of the most important sections of the report.

APBnews’s Sinatra report illustrates the unique potential of new media journalism. Journalists and the news are no longer constrained by the technical limitations of analog media boundaries of print, television, or radio. Rather, new media journalism can feature virtually all modalities of human communication to make storytelling as powerful and complete as possible. Of course, this is the potential. The realities of new media journalism still constrain it by the fiscal requirements of publishing quality news content. Without a viable business model, even the best-intentioned new media journalism as illustrated by APBnews can still fail due to the lack of economic resources.

Since the advent of the basic news Web site, various other more specialized forms of Web-based news content have emerged. Among these are Weblogs, or blogs, twitter, and Podcasts. Blogs have emerged as among the most pervasive and popular forms of online, new media journalism. Gartner Consulting (, accessed January 2, 2008) estimates that as of 2007, there are some 100 blogs. Having evolved from online diaries, blogs are Web sites in which postings are typically presented in reverse chronological order. Most blogs use browser-based software and are sometimes hosted by dedicated blog-hosting services. Some blogs run on blog software, including blogger, LiveJournal, and WordPress. Jorn Barger coined the term Weblog (Wortham, 2007) on December 17, 1997. Peter Merholz created the contraction, blog, by which Weblogs are known universally in 2008. Merholz (1999) introduced the term on his blog in April or May 1999. Since their inception, blogs have grown dramatically in their popularity, reach, and impact.

By 2008, there are many types of blogs. Among the more common, somewhat specialized blogs relevant to new media journalism are Vlogs and Linklogs. Vlogs are blogs that include or feature video. Linklogs are made mostly or entirely of links to other Web sites. Blogs designed for mobile devices such as a mobile phone or a personal digital appliance (PDA) are called Moblogs. Many blogs concentrate on a single topic, including politics, travel, or fashion. There are also search engines that focus on searching the content of blogs. These include blogdigger, Feedster, and Technorati. The general domain of all blogs is known collectively as the blogosphere.

Blogs constitute an important form of new media journalism. Although many blogs focus on opinion, some also break news and introduce original reporting. As a result, blogs have become popular around the world. Perhaps the single most popular blog is that of the Chinese actress Xu Jinglei (English:, accessed January 2, 2008). Her blog is reported by the Chinese news service Xinhua to have more than 50 million page views a month (China Daily, 2006). Jinglei’s blog also has (as of 2006) the most incoming links of any blog (another measure of blog popularity).

Blogging has become a significant part of what is often called participatory journalism, or journalism produced by lay citizens rather than professional journalists employed by mainstream, commercial (or not-for-profit) news media. One of the reasons blogging has become valuable to those engaged in participatory journalism is that it can avoid the filter typically imposed by established news media. This filtering process, or gatekeeping, can be important in providing editorial review and fact-checking. It can ensure higher-quality journalism, more responsible reporting, and fewer possibilities of libel or other legal action in response to potentially flawed reporting. It can protect the credibility of news reporting. Yet the mainstream news media filter can also inhibit diverse perspectives and viewpoints. It can limit the range of opinions or even subjects reported on. It can force a certain uniformity of voice. Some contend that bloggers fail to respect copyright by republishing other reporting. The blogosphere has often played a vital role in bringing critical attention to important news stories that the mainstream media had ignored or were not in a position to cover effectively. Video bloggers, for instance, proved important in reporting the tsunami that wreaked havoc on much of Indonesia and beyond in 2004. In one case, a federal investigating team found the video blog of a Seattle-based reporter of such value in pursuing its investigation of alleged terrorists that it jailed the blogger for not revealing his sources. Josh Wolf, a Seattle, Washington, video blogger was jailed by a federal prosecutor in August 2006 for not revealing his sources during anti-WTO (World Trade Organization) protests in April 1999 in Seattle (Blue, 2006). The blogosphere demonstrated its robustness in identifying questionable media, political, and other activities when, in 2006, bloggers discerned that the news photo of an Israeli bomb attack in Beirut had been manipulated. Still, much of the blogosphere is of dubious or limited quality and sometimes is designed specifically to mislead, distort, or propagandize.

Mainstream journalists also produce their own blogs.’s J-blog report lists some 300. Jonathan Dube of The Charlotte Observer published perhaps the first use of a blog on a news site in August 1998, when he chronicled Hurricane Bonnie (Scanlan, 2003).

Twitter and the Double-Edged Sword of Speed

Twitter is a form of blogging that is based on the use of mobile devices and text messaging to upload short messages to blogs while on the fly. Twitter is especially popular for current information, such as what a candidate for president is doing on the campaign trail.

On the downside, Twitter demonstrates one of the most significant concerns about new media journalism. Twitter at its best demonstrates the currency of new media journalism. A blogger can follow a candidate on the campaign trail and post the very latest information from the field directly to the public without more than a moment’s delay. The public can have the absolute latest information in near real time.

At the same time, Twitter points out the potential deepest flaw of currency: no time for thoughtful reflection. New media journalism in the form of Twitter or other near-real-time reporting provides a direct, unfiltered look at current events, but the events may be taken completely out of context with virtually no depth in the reporting.

Other New Media Content Forms

Podcasts are another important content form of new media journalism. These are audio files created for online distribution, formatted for downloading to MP3 players such as the iPod, using syndication technology. Listeners can subscribe to Podcasts and have them downloaded automatically when new content is added via aggregator software or feed reader tools such as RSS (really simple syndication) or Atom (a syndication protocol using XML, the extensible markup language). Podcasts can be downloaded from a variety of online locations, including aggregation sites such as iTunes. Podcasts can also be made available via any Web site or blog.

Video Podcasts (vodcasts) are increasingly popular. A list of vodcasts is available from Vodstock (, accessed January 3, 2008). The top 10 vodcasts for the week of January 6, 2008, included the vodcasts of The New York Times, The Today Show, and the Discovery Channel.

Some news Web sites also feature animation, typically made using a software application called Flash. Flash animations or animated gifs (short animated pictures based on the graphics interchange format) are often used to present animations online that might parallel the types of animations sometimes seen on television news, such as a rotating globe.

One of the more interesting new media journalism forms is virtual reality. Reuters, a major international news service, has created and staffed a news “island” in the popular online virtual reality environment Second Life (, accessed January 3, 2008). Open to anyone, Second Life has emerged as a compelling 3D virtual reality for millions of citizens around the world who have created avatars (virtual representations of themselves) to populate and live in an altered state where personal flight is a reality, altered egos can flourish, and real money (US$1,296,257 were spent during the 24 hours concluding at 10:19 a.m. eastern time January 7, 2008) can be made without ever setting foot into the real world. The Reuters Island in Second Life is a virtual version of the Reuters real-world news service but covering the domain of Second Life for the citizens of Second Life (numbering 11,807,742 residents as of January 5, 2008).

More experimental forms of news content in a new media environment have also been developed. Among these are

  • Immersive video,
  • 3D graphics,
  • Interactive photographs,
  • Situated documentaries, and
  • Locative media.

Immersive video refers to various video formats that provide a 360-degree, spherical video experience for the viewer. In a new media journalism context, this most typically refers to panoramic video displayed on a computer monitor allowing the viewer to use a mouse or keyboard controls to pan, tilt, or zoom about a full hemispheric view of a news scene or location. Although this can be provided in still photo images, video provides an especially powerful news medium. Such technology enables new media journalists to tell stories in new ways that help place events in a greater context. While standard photojournalism and video reporting help focus attention on a subject, they by their very nature remove much of the surrounding context for the image or video. Immersive video can put this context back into the story. Through software, directional photography or videography can still be produced from images or moving pictures shot with an immersive camera system. But the viewer can be provided with the option of being able to pan, tilt, or zoom into or about a scene to examine the background previously unavailable to the viewer of a news photo or television report.

When reporting on a protest, for example, this context might help the viewer better appreciate the scale of the protest or other potentially relevant facts. Pavlik (2001) and his former students at Columbia University collaborated with new media journalism organization (no longer in operation) to report on the 1999 slaying of Amadou Diallo in the Bronx, NewYork (West Bronx News Network). An immigrant from Africa, Diallo was stepping from the vestibule of his apartment building one night when four undercover police officers pulled up in their unmarked squad car and mistook Diallo for a criminal suspect. Apparently mistaking Diallo’s wallet for a gun, and then inexplicably hearing nonexistent gunfire, the police officers open fired on Diallo, shooting a fusillade of 41 bullets, killing Diallo instantly. Several of the bullets entered the dead man’s feet as he lay prone and bleeding in the entrance to his building. Pavlik’s students used an experimental 360-degree camera invented by the Columbia University computer science professor Shree Nayar (, accessed January 7, 2008) to record the scene in immersive fashion. The immersive photos were posted on the Web site, along with other accompanying reporting. Viewers were able to look about the vestibule, examine the scene, click on the entrance to the building, and access an immersive view from the street, getting a sense of the police perspective when they first arrived on the scene.

Pavlik’s students also used the 360-degree video camera invented by Nayar to cover the Irish-Lesbian Gay Organization’s (ILGO) protest of and arrest in the 1997 St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York City. Banned by the parade organizers because of their sexual orientation, ILGO members attempted to march in the parade anyway and were arrested by the police. Pavlik’s students covered the events leading up to the parade as well as the parade itself. They produced an award-winning pioneering 360-degree immersive video documentary, in which viewers could use their mouse to pan, tilt, or zoom about the scene during any portion of the video to examine activity beyond the roughly 90-degree (or less) field of view typically available in video shot by a standard camera. The human eye takes in a field of view of approximately 160 degrees horizontal by 75 degrees vertical. By providing an immersive video experience, 360-degree video or photography can give viewers a feeling of presence not possible when viewing photos or video with the standard field of view. There are various commercial providers of 360-degree imaging technology (e.g.,,,

3D graphics are graphics with three visual dimensions, width, height, and depth. Most graphics in journalism are two dimensional, width and height. Adding a third dimension is possible in online or digital environments, and in new media journalism 3D graphics can provide an additional valuable tool to the reporter’s storytelling palette. With 3D graphics, a reporter can provide complete visualization of an object central to a story, such as a science or health story. A 3D model of a human internal organ, such as a heart or heart valve, can be provided on a screen, and the reader can examine the model from all sides or from any angle. 3D graphics have been used experimentally in new media journalism trials, such as those of Pavlik and his students when, in 2000, reporting on a story about the possibility of a terrorist bombing in New York City.

Interactive photographs present another storytelling tool for new media journalists. Interactive photographs are increasingly being used online at sites such as, where members can post pictures of themselves, friends, or family, and then insert mouse-over labels onto the photos. Similar tools are being used in new media journalism, although they are not yet mainstream news applications. Interactive photos can take a variety of other forms in new media journalism. In one of Nayar’s computational camera systems, called high dynamic-range imaging, a photographer can capture a photo of a subject involving high contrast and permit the user to see all portions and objects in the field of view without overexposing or underexposing any portion of the image (Nayar, 2008).

Situated documentaries refer to a new form of documentary developed by Pavlik and his Columbia University computer science colleague Professor Steve Feiner (, accessed January 5, 2008). A situated documentary involves the use of the mobile journalist workstation (Pavlik & Feiner, 1998) previously described. In this application, the wearer walks through a location and sees through the head-worn display 3D virtual objects that act as story markers. The head-worn display incorporates a gyroscopic head tracker linked to GPS (global positioning system) and GIS (geographic information system), technologies that together permit the user to look at an interactive object for a half-second and thereby select it, much as a user on a desktop computer would select an object by moving the cursor onto it and clicking on it. This system is known as gaze approximation. It is a particularly useful tool in a mobile computing and communications environment. Through the use of gaze approximation technology the user looks at any of these virtual objects, typically a color-coated flag, selects one, and initiates a multimedia sequence or storytelling narrative. Pavlik’s students produced a series of situated documentaries about past events at Columbia, including the 1968 student strike or revolt, Edwin Armstrong’s invention of FM radio, and the prehistory of the Columbia Morningside Heights campus when in the mid-19th century it was home to the Bloomingdale Asylum for the Insane.

Locative media is an emerging form of new media journalism content that extends the situated documentary into a broader context. Locative media embraces all forms of media content based on geographic location. Most often, locative media is produced for online access. It is typically powered through Google Earth, a geographic visualization system made free to the public by Google (, accessed January 3, 2008) provides a window into several such projects, including a geo-tagged Mississippi Blues Trail exploring the growth of the blues through the Mississippi delta. A useful examination of ongoing developments in locative media is provided by the blog of the PBS new media journalist Leslie Rule (2008).

Reinventing Relationships

New media are leading to the reinvention of the relationships between and among journalists, journalistic organizations, and their many publics, especially these five: audiences, sources, regulators, financers, and competitors. These relationships are essential to the continuing operation and impact of journalism in society. Perhaps most fundamentally, the relationship between news media and the general public, or what has often been called the audience, is critical. Without an audience, news media would have no purpose. Essential to this relationship is the trust of the public. Credibility is the cornerstone of the news media/public relationship. Credibility is a multidimensional concept, including not only trust but authoritative-ness of both the source and the message or content itself. As we move into the age of new media journalism, the relationship between news media and the public is evolving in significant ways, and credibility is changing as well. First and foremost, the public is evolving from a largely passive receiver of news media messages to an active participant in a two-way dialogue between and among the news media and the public. As such, the idea of “audience” is changing. Citizens have become active participants in online discussions with journalists, public figures, and each other. This is seen in a variety of venues, perhaps most visibly on the so-called YouTube debates in the early stages of the 2008 U.S. Presidential campaign. Segments of the YouTube debates (2007) are available online for on-demand free viewing. With the rise of a more active public in political dialogues, the notion of an apathetic or uninvolved citizen may decline or be replaced by a citizenry highly and directly involved in the political arena.

Other important relationships between the news media and sources, regulators, financers, and competitors are also undergoing significant change in the age of new media journalism. Sources are those individuals or organizations journalists turn to for original information, whether through interviews, Web sites, or other materials. In the days of analog media, the barriers to publication or broadcasting were significant, and most sources with a message they hoped to deliver to the public were generally limited to going through the filter of professional news media. The growth of the Internet, World Wide Web, and various digital media of content production and delivery has made it increasingly practical, affordable, and efficient for individuals or organizations to go around the media gatekeepers and deliver their messages directly to desired publics. Whether through blogs, mass text messaging or e-mailing (sometimes called spam), RSS podcasts, or social-networking sites such as YouTube, MySpace, or Facebook, individuals and organizations can often deliver potentially powerful multimedia messages to targeted groups.

Yet such unfiltered messages can sometimes lack the credibility of messages delivered via traditional or new media journalism. Sources still often rely on journalists to tell their story, even if it is not exactly the story they would like to tell. When new media journalists talk with sources, they often do so not just face-to-face or by phone but by e-mail. And when on the phone, it may be via Skype, an online telephone service with very inexpensive or free national or international rates.

Regulation of new media journalism is increasingly not just a domestic matter. As online messages reach the farthest corners of the globe, international regulators and regulations come into play. A reporter or report legally published online in the United States can violate law in a foreign country and subject that reporter or employer to possible fines, imprisonment, or other penalties. New media journalists are typically required to adhere to the same laws (e.g., libel) as other journalists but may not enjoy the same freedoms or opportunities. Not all laws recognize bloggers as journalists and may not accredit them to gain access to news venues, such as the White House, as other recognized journalists.

Financers of new media journalism are still in a state of evolution, and it is not clear what viable business model will emerge to support journalism in the digital age. Advertising-supported journalism has operated as the main business model of journalism since the rise of the Penny Press in the 19th century. Whether online news media will enjoy these same revenues is unclear. Google, with its news aggregator service; craigslist, with its efficient online classified advertising; and other online media have emerged as powerful advertising environments, and original producers of online journalism have struggled to compete. Whether citizens in general will learn to pay for credible new media journalism remains to be seen. The Wall Street Journal online and a handful of other premium and specialized (e.g.,The Wall Street Journal focuses on business news) online news sources have cultivated significant pay subscribers.

Competition in the new media age is robust and increasingly nonlocal. Frequently, competition for audience eyes and ears (not to mention dollars) is fierce in the online arena and elsewhere (e.g., digital cable is competing with telephone companies and satellite providers for television audiences as well as high-speed Internet services, all of which serve as important environments for new media journalism). This competition is not only local but national and international, as audiences find it increasingly easy to click on Al Jazeera (the Arabic news service,, accessed January 7, 2008), Google News, or their personalized Yahoo page with customized news, as it is to click on The New York Times online or other traditional news providers.


This chapter has examined the nature and scope of new media journalism. New media journalism is differentiated from traditional or mainstream journalism and distinguished based not only on the tools used by journalists working in an online, digital domain and the means of delivering news online and on-demand but also in terms of the content new media journalists create, the structure of new media news organizations, and the relationships between new media journalism and its publics. The emergence of an active public engaged in a participatory discourse with the media, newsmakers, and other members of the public is one of the most important qualities separating new media journalism from the journalism that preceded it and to a certain degree continues to exist in mainstream media. Whether through blogs, text messaging, or social-networking sites such as YouTube, the public has entered into a new and closer-than-ever media relationship and is demonstrating a growing interest in not only receiving messages but also creating and sharing its own content and voice. Oftentimes, this voice may be shrill, biased, or just plain silly, but sometimes it is thoughtful, insightful, and unique. Such is the promise and the peril of new media journalism.