News aggregation—or the process of taking news from published sources, reshaping it, and republishing it in an abbreviated form within a single place—has become one of the most prominent journalistic practices in the current digital news environment. It has long been an important part of journalism, predating reporting as a form of newsgathering and distribution. But it has often been a poorly, or at best incompletely, understood practice. Aggregation was widespread in the 18th and 19th centuries through copying and republishing of newspaper articles in ways that sometimes showed little regard for copyright or individual authorship. But in recent decades, more sophisticated forms of aggregation have proliferated, both automated and manual, and on virtually every digital platform on which news is disseminated. Aggregation draws from the norms and values of both modern professional journalism and Internet culture and writing. That amalgam of standards and practices shapes aggregation as a hybrid practice that is built on professional journalism yet marginal within it.
News aggregators’ economic effect on the online news marketplace has been intensely debated, but research has shown them to be generally helpful to the news sites they aggregate from, expanding the news ecosystem and sending readers through hyperlinks. Their legal legitimacy has also come under scrutiny, though they have encountered significantly more restrictions in Europe than in the United States or elsewhere. Professionally, aggregation is built on the practices of reporting and relies on reporting as both the predominant source of its information and the blueprint for its methods of verification. But its defining characteristic is its secondary status relative to reporting, which shapes its methods of gathering evidence as well as its professional identity and values. Overall, news aggregation plays a growing role in the contemporary news environment, though its influence is complex, multifaceted, and ambiguous.
The emergence of citizen journalism has prompted the journalism field and scholars to readdress what constitutes journalism and who is a journalist. Citizen journalists have disrupted news-media ecosystems by challenging the veracity and representativeness of information flowing from mainstream news-media newsrooms. However, the controversy related to the desired level of citizen involvement in the news process is a historical debate that began before the citizen-journalism phenomenon. As early as the 1920s, journalist and political commentator Walter Lippman and American philosopher John Dewey debated the role of journalism in democracy, including the extent that the public should participate in the news-gathering and production processes.
This questioning of citizen involvement in news reemerged as an issue with the citizen journalism phenomenon around the late 1990s. People with no news-media organizational ties have taken advantage of the convenience and low cost of social computing technologies by publishing their own stories and content. These people are referred to as citizen journalists. Scholars have assessed the quality and credibility of citizen-journalism content, finding that citizen journalists have performed well on several standards of traditional news-content quality. Levels of quality differ dependent upon citizen journalists’ goals and motivations, such as serving the public interest, increasing self-status, or expressing their creative selves.
As it is an emerging area of study, unarticulated theoretical boundaries of citizen journalism exist. Citizen-journalism publications emphasize community over conflict, advocacy over objectivity, and interpretation over fact-based reporting. In general, citizen journalists have historically acted when existing news-media journalists were not fully meeting their community’s informational needs. Scholars, however, vary in how they label citizen journalists and how they conceptually and empirically define citizen journalism. For example, researchers have shifted their definitional focus on citizen journalists from one of active agents of democratic change to people who create a piece of news content. The mapping of the citizen-journalism literature revealed four types of citizen journalists based on their levels of editorial control and contribution type: (1) participatory, (2) para, (3) news-media watchdog, and (4) community. Taken together, these concepts describe the breadth of citizen-journalist types. For those of us interested in journalism studies, a more targeted approach in the field of citizen journalism can help us build community around scholarship, understand citizen journalists’ contributions to society and practice, and create a more a stable foundation of knowledge concerning people who create and comment on news content.
Juliette De Maeyer
A content management system (CMS) is a computer program used by news organizations or individuals to create, edit, organize, and publish journalistic content. The origins of modern-day CMSs date back to the process of newsroom computerization that started in the 1960s and to technological developments in web publishing in the 1990s. The latter have led to the creation of software that allows nontechnical users to easily publish content on the Web (blogging software and social media platforms). Consequently, the development of CMSs can be understood as a process of remediation, that is, the operation through which “new” media incorporate “old” media in a series of refashionings: modern-day CMSs still bear some traces of previous technological systems, as exemplified by the protean existence of the slug, a term that originated in the hot-type era and has carried into today’s digital software terminology. Journalism research has generally studied CMSs as being part of the technical infrastructure of media, through a socio-material approach. In that regard, digital technology is a black box wherein lurks the many tensions inherent to contemporary newsmaking. Opportunities to study such (invisible) infrastructure therefore arise whenever it dysfunctions, and research has focused on the various problems, obstacles, and impediments brought about by CMSs in newswork. More specifically, studying the CMS draws attention to issues related to the institutionalization of journalistic workflows (that become ossified in digital technologies), newsroom technologies constituting a complex system, the evolution of professional roles and hierarchies (and consequent power relations), as well as the agency and relative autonomy of software.
Ivar John Erdal
Since the mid-1990s, media organizations all over the world have experienced a series of significant changes related to technological developments, from the organizational level down to the single journalist. Ownership in the media sector has developed toward increased concentration, mergers, and cross-media ownership. At the same time, digitization of media production has facilitated changes in both the organization and the everyday practice of journalism. Converged multimedia news organizations have emerged, as companies increasingly implement some form of cross-media cooperation or synergy between previously separate journalists, newsrooms, and departments. These changes have raised a number of questions about the relationship between organizational strategies, new technology, and everyday newsroom practice. In the literature on convergence journalism, these questions have been studied from different perspectives. Adopting a meta-perspective, it is possible to sort the literature into two broad categories. The first group consists of research mainly occupied with convergence in journalism. These are typically studies of organizational changes and changes in professional practice, for example increased cooperation between print and online newsrooms, or the role of online journalism in broadcasting organizations. The second group contains research primarily concerning convergence of journalism. This is mainly studies concerned with changes in journalistic texts. Some examples of this are repurposing television news for online publication, increased use of multimedia, and genre development within online journalism. It has to be noted that the two angles are closely connected and also share an interest in the role of technological development and the relationship between changing technologies, work practices, and journalistic output.
Courtney Barclay and Kearston Wesner
This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Communication. Please check back later for the full article.
Drones armed with cameras have allowed journalists to capture images from new perspectives and in places previously unreachable. Footage of volcanic eruptions, war-torn villages, and nuclear disaster areas have all been made possible with drone technology. However, this same technology presents risks to personal privacy.
Since before Warren and Brandeis penned the oft cited Right to Privacy, newsgatherers have tested the boundaries of society’s notion of privacy. The development of new technologies at the time, such as the snap camera, made photography a faster, more efficient endeavor. Warren and Brandeis recognized that the increased photographic recording of society threatened individual privacy on a scale never before imagined. More than a century later, the use of new technology—drones outfitted with cameras and other imaging devices—has once again ignited debate over how to protect an individual’s privacy while ensuring journalists’ ability to gather news.
The traditional remedy for intrusive journalism has been through tort law, which requires an individual to show that she or he had a reasonable expectation of privacy. By and large, these laws have favored journalists; however, that result is usually based on the fact that the newsgathering activity occurred in a public place rather than any recognition of the importance of newsgathering. State lawmakers have begun to address drone photography with a wide variety of approaches that would move away from this public place exception—from prohibiting photography over private property to prohibiting any photography without someone’s consent, even in a public place.
The press has recognized the cost to individual privacy incurred by use of technologies such as drone photography. Professional codes of ethics instruct journalists to minimize harm to the public, requiring an “overriding” public interest to invade someone’s privacy. The Professional Society of Drone Journalists’ Code of Ethics addresses the additional responsibilities inherent to drone technology. Under this code, journalists should record only public spaces and delete any images of individuals in a private space.
Drone technology represents only one of the latest developments in surveillance used for law enforcement, commercial enterprise, and journalism. However, its growth and the gaps in privacy tort law underscore the importance of strong codes of ethics that serve the interests of both newsgathering and individual privacy.
On a fundamental level, financial journalism provides information to individuals that helps them make informed economic choices, and understand how those choices impact their financial situation within the context of the broader political economy. The need for reliable information about prevailing business conditions has been recognized since the dawn of commerce, and since then financial journalism and commerce have developed together in a mostly symbiotic, albeit occasionally combative, relationship for hundreds of years. In its earliest iterations, in the 16th century, financial journalism consisted of little more than the publication of prices of commodities or other goods for sale. As trade and commerce expanded over the following centuries, so did the role and content of financial journalism. The globalization of commerce and increasing integration of the world economy since the late 20th century has increased the importance of financial journalism, while the spread of mass-market investment opportunities and defined-benefit retirement accounts in many countries has expanded the pool of individuals exposed to moves in financial markets, helping to make financial publications among the world’s most-read newspapers and websites. The focus of financial journalism is quite consistent no matter what country or language it is published in: broadly defined, financial journalism encompasses news about financial markets, macroeconomic data and trends, government economic policy, corporate news (especially earnings announcements), personal finance, and commentary about all of the above. However, the often mutualistic relationship between financial journalism and the organizations it covers has led to conflicts of interest, and to a debate over the proper role of a financial press: whether it is to merely disseminate data and information from those organizations, or to serve as a watchdog over them. For example, the bubble in internet-related shares in the 1990s was blamed partly on “boosterism” by the financial media, while many investors also blamed the financial press for failing to sound the alarm ahead of the Global Financial Crisis later in the following decade.
Pamela J. Shoemaker
One of the oldest social science theories applied to the study of communication, the gatekeeping approach emphasizes the movement of bits of information through channels, with an emphasis on decision points (gates) and decision-makers (gatekeepers). Forces on both sides of a gate can either help or hinder the information’s passage through a channel. The gatekeeping process shapes and produces various images of reality, not only because some bits of information are selected and others rejected, but because communication agents put information together in different ways. In addition, the timing and repetition of information can affect the prominence of events or topics and can influence the probability of future information diffusion.
Gatekeeping was originally modeled as a series of linear processes within the mass media, but in the late 20th century the flow of information through the mass and social media began to interact. Information is now understood to flow among journalists, among social media users, and among agents of both types of media. All such communication agents are gatekeepers. In addition, we can study these networked interconnections as one level of analysis, with the supra-gatekeepers (such as Facebook or Twitter) adding their own gatekeeping processes over and beyond those of their own clients of the mass media.
In addition to looking at various pairwise relationships between gatekeepers, gatekeeping theory should go beyond to instead consider the entire web of gatekeepers as a whole or system. A system is composed of elements (gatekeepers), interactions (relationships among them), and a goal or function. Multiple functions have been proposed by 20th-century scholars (such as socialization, entertainment, or surveillance) for the mass media, but scholars should now consider the function(s) of the gatekeeping system (mass and social media, as well as supra-gatekeepers) as a whole. Although each type of medium can be analyzed as its own system, such analysis would not facilitate new thinking about the various ways in which these partial systems affect one another and how the whole system functions beyond the simple addition of its parts.
Mel Bunce, Martin Scott, and Kate Wright
Humanitarian journalism can be defined, very broadly, as the production of factual accounts about crises and issues that affect human welfare. This can be broken down into two broad approaches: “traditional” reporting about humanitarian crises and issues, and advocacy journalism that aims to improve humanitarian outcomes. In practice, there is overlap between the two approaches. Mainstream journalists have long helped to raise awareness and funds for humanitarian crises, as well as provide early emergency warnings and monitor the treatment of citizens. Meanwhile, aid agencies and humanitarian campaigners frequently subsidize or directly provide journalistic content.
There is a large research literature on humanitarian journalism. The most common focus of this research is the content of international reporting about humanitarian crises. These studies show that a small number of “high-profile” crises take up the vast majority of news coverage, leaving others marginalized and hidden. The quantity of coverage is not strongly correlated to the severity of a crisis or the number of people affected but, rather, its geopolitical significance and cultural proximity to the audience. Humanitarian journalism also tends to highlight international rescue efforts, fails to provide context about the causes of a crisis, and operates to erase the agency of local response teams and victims. Communication theorists have argued that this reporting prevents an empathetic and equal encounter between the audience and those affected by distant suffering. However, there are few empirical studies of the mechanisms through which news content influences audiences or policymakers. There are also very few production studies of the news organizations and journalists who produce humanitarian journalism. The research that does exist focuses heavily on news organizations based in the Global North/West.
Many national news agencies (press associations) are facing significant transformations and some of these longstanding institutions, which we once thought would last forever, may even cease to operate. Most academic research concentrates on the biggest Western agencies, with very little research done on agencies outside the West. News agencies have also been studied either without a theoretical lens, or with a theoretical lens that does not necessarily help us to understand the essentially transnational character of news agencies, many of them operating both nationally and internationally.
Nikki Usher and Aske Kammer
The rise of news startups in their modern incarnation has taken place on a global scale, and needs consideration as a phenomenon. First, a brief history of news startups is provided, followed by a theoretical framing that explores how they both differ from and normalize existing aspects of professional journalism. News startups stretch the boundaries of the profession through discursive claims about iteration and innovation, but nonetheless draw on the longstanding aspirations of legacy journalists for inspiration. The types of funding models are overviewed (philanthropic/nonprofit, government-funded, venture-backed for-profit, for-profit, and ideological-advocacy) and are posited against a matrix of types of news startups (original-content creators, aggregators/curators, platforms, and business-to-business). News startups face future challenges to their survival and a discussion is needed on their fragility in the context of flexible and venture labor.
Photography has been a practical reality for about 190 years, and, from its beginnings, journalism seemed like a natural application of the medium since most people believed that the photograph was an objective representation of reality. During the years since the first surviving photograph was produced in a camera, the evolution of photojournalism has been driven by a combination of technology, public demand, and a passion for the profession by its practitioners. In the first decades after that initial photograph, improvements in lenses, negatives, and prints made photographic reportage of the Crimean War (1853–1856) and the American Civil War (1861–1865) possible. The British and American populaces created immense markets for war images, and entrepreneurial photographers such as Roger Fenton and Mathew Brady provided them.
Technological advances in cameras, lenses, film, lighting, photographic reproduction methods, and an ability to transmit photographs worldwide continued to advance the boundaries of photojournalism throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. The topics of that work were mostly motivated by public demand. Wars, politics, photographs of “exotic” cultures from around the world, sports, everyday features, and celebrity portraits provided popular themes and continue to do so into the present, but photojournalists have also pursued subjects that they deemed important to humankind though not necessarily popular. Many have produced social, political, environmental, and cultural documentaries that challenge the status quo. Some have challenged this work as being outside the bounds of “objectivity,” but the usefulness of this argument has been rejected by many in the profession. Legendary photojournalist W. Eugene Smith, for example, stated succinctly, “there is nothing objective about journalism.”
The final decade of the 20th century brought the evolution of the digital camera. Today’s photojournalism is almost exclusively a digital endeavor. The transformation of photography from analog to digital has revolutionized photojournalism in terms of workflow, mobility, transmission of images, ethics, image availability, and the question of “who is a photojournalist?” Finally, the gradual mutation of the term “photojournalism” to “visual journalism” denotes a transformation of the medium itself from the still image to a combination of still and moving images or perhaps exclusively moving images in the future. This, in turn, may fundamentally change the ways in which photojournalistic stories are told and experienced.
In the 1950s and 1960s, the U.S. Congress, with allies in the news media, created legislation that came to be known as the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). It was designed to help hold the federal executive accountable to the public. It became law in 1966. Its significance can be understood in several contexts: (1) in connection with a special relationship of journalists to the operation of the FOIA; (2) in terms of arguments that transparency in government is necessary for citizens’ informed participation in democracy and that, on the other side, there are strong democratic arguments that transparency should be limited in the pursuit of other legitimate values, some of them recognized in the language of the FOIA itself that government agencies may deny a citizen's request for information on the grounds that honoring the request could endanger national security, personal privacy, the integrity of internal government deliberations, or other significant objectives; and (3) that freedom of information law are one institution within a wider web of institutions and practices dedicated to holding government accountable. In this regard, the U.S. Freedom of Information Act can also be seen in a broad context of a cultural shift toward “openness” and a political shift toward what has been called a “monitory” model of democracy.