Ethics Online: The Future of Journalism on the Web

The American 1960s were a time of revolution. Informational broadcasts were shot throughout the rhetorical canons of media outlets throughout the country, with messages widening everyday. The U.S. was at a turning point for communications surrounding politics, paradigm, and personal agendas. Through all this came a significant refinement; the need for change inspired a group of technicians and scientists at UCLA to create a web-based system of sending and receiving informational packages, thus revolutionizing America’s networks of correspondence and interpretation. In 1969 the Internet was born, and although that same spirit of revolution has remained eternal within it, so has the element of journalistic ethics died.

The Internet was intended to be ‘the galactic community’ – an intricate lacing of communities united simultaneously to interact openly. Yet, nearly two generations later, that community has eroded. The medium reserved for America’s elite outlets – science, literature, art, politics, commerce, and journalism – is now overrun by thieving bandits, formative pornographers, and nihilists who inhibit efficiency. The future is jaded for the Web – Americans are, once again, polarized over the political conflict regarding free speech.

No matter how hard anyone tries the Internet will never be regulated. Aside from the bureaucracy on Capitol Hill, digital restrictions are also part of a slow moving process and, unfortunately, they could never contain the sheer speed of Internet expansion. Everyday thousands of new users log on to the Web from destinations that span the globe – all of whom will read, buy, and learn from what it has to offer. Too many do not realize, however, that it can be a tainted resource; the Internet is often far removed from the truth.

Journalists whom carry the objective torch of truth often feel guilty by association when it comes to the Internet. What is to them a means of publication is to an exuberance of others a means of entertainment. Aside from digital pirates and perverts, the outlet is overwhelmed by a number of mindless geeks whom maintain online diaries and proclaim them as news resources. Serious bloggers (writers who post weblogs) are forced to reside next to them as digital neighbors and, in turn, compete against them; indeed, the blogosphere is just another lawless realm of this savage frontier. Blogs are typically a product of bias, too – with an online journal format and no one checking the facts, i.e. no editors, it is difficult to imagine a blog that strives to report both sides of the story.

Still, the journalists are not the primary victims of the Internet’s journalistic standards. Consider, for a moment, innocent readers who have connected [to the internet] for their very first time in search of a news story. First they must dodge the web services’ news that initially pops up on their homepages; major web services typically get their news from the subsidiaries of major TV news corporations such as CNN or MSNBC. Then they must mug their way through various search engines to find what they’re specifically looking for, having to settle for search results that are based on word grouping and/or how the webpages are programmed. Next they are subjected to what the webpage has to offer: maybe one or more advertisements, pop-ups, and/or viruses. If they’re lucky they’ll find what they’ve been looking for, otherwise they must repeat the search.
Experienced Internet users will most likely stick to a news site or blog that fancies their interests.

Regardless of what their interests may be they are narrowing their perspectives. Ultimately, they will end up victimized by a postmodern bias – a combination of narrow-minded reporting found on the Internet and apathy towards other news outlets mutated by general solitude. Currently, there is a push for the Internet to eventually incorporate video and telecommunications well enough to produce a computer capable of broadcasting television and phone conversations with Web access readily available; in the future, the average Joe will be able to watch his preferable news, communicate with anyone about the story, and then rewrite the story and publish it on his personal webpage… all from the comfort of his recliner. With the help of a mini-fridge and bedpan he would never have to leave his house. He could simply remain in his own world participating in journalistic anarchism.

Obviously there need to be order in this Internet mess. The solution: an officially licensed and nationally recognized forum – only here would global users unite into a solidary web-based community. With the expanded audience the site would be able to pay for itself, which immediately cancels the need for any corporate advertising; it could even be a means for fund-raising. Aside from categorization and management of the website’s members’ blogs, the site would also feature an area for public discussion with broadcasted conversations and debates. The site would be translated internationally, easy to use, practical for even the most outdated computers, and readily available to constituents of all ages. Of course, this forum’s representational news stories would have to be reviewed by an extensive panel of well-paid scholars of journalism. Also, the members’ dialogue would have to be constantly judged for content, to be censored only in the most extreme and/or obnoxious cases.

The ways it could improve people’s lives are countless, really. It would be a publication for and by the people – a true harmony that embodies the ideals of democracy and stays true to what the Internet was meant to revolutionize. In fact, the Internet revolution would be reborn…along with its journalism’s ethical integrity.

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