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Convergence in/of Journalism  

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.

Article

Drone Journalism, Privacy Law, and Journalism Ethics  

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.

Article

Gatekeeping and Journalism  

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.

Article

How Libel Law Applies to Automated Journalism  

Jonathan Peters

Automated journalism—the use of algorithms to translate data into narrative news content—is enabling all manner of outlets to increase efficiency while scaling up their reporting in areas as diverse as financial earnings and professional baseball. With these technological advancements, however, come serious risks. Algorithms are not good at interpreting or contextualizing complex information, and they are subject to biases and errors that ultimately could produce content that is misleading or false, even libelous. It is imperative, then, to examine how libel law might apply to automated news content that harms the reputation of a person or an organization. Conducting that examination from the perspective of U.S. law, because of its uniquely expansive constitutional protections in the area of libel, it appears that the First Amendment would cover algorithmic speech—meaning that the First Amendment’s full supply of tools and principles, and presumptions would apply to determine if particular automated news content would be protected. In the area of libel, the most significant issues come under the plaintiff’s burden to prove that the libelous content was published by the defendant (with a focus on whether automated journalism would qualify for immunity available to providers of interactive computer services) and that the content was published through the defendant’s fault (with a focus on whether an algorithm could behave with the actual malice or negligence usually required to satisfy this inquiry). There is also a significant issue under the opinion defense, which provides broad constitutional protection for statements of opinion (with a focus on whether an algorithm itself is capable of having beliefs or ideas, which generally inform an opinion).

Article

U.S. Freedom of Information Act and Democratic Accountability  

Michael Schudson

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.