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Digital media helpful for traditional news industry

2010/05/10 20:17:34

Taipei, May 10 (CNA) The emergence of digital media should not beviewed as a threat to the traditional news industry but rather as ahelpful tool that can expand the scope of the business, a top U.S.media worker said Monday.

Speaking at a seminar presented at CNA headquarters, Gary Kebbel,the journalism program director of the Florida-based KnightFoundation, said that the state of a country's media is reflective ofthe state of its democracy and that when the news environmentfalters, "it is an indicator that our democracy is in trouble."

Kebbel also encouraged journalists and media companies to embracethe technologies and opportunities the new trend offers.

Despite the current economic contractions that have led many newscompanies to downsize, the industry can still cope with the financialchallenges and keep its integrity as a reliable news source bytapping digital media tools such as audio, video, online socialnetworks, citizen journalism and even bloggers, he said.

Any attempts by the traditional news industry to alienate itselffrom such tools could be counterproductive because it would beignoring the "inherent capability of digital media," he went on.

Kebble stressed that cooperation between the traditional anddigital media is crucial in maximizing a company's efficiency.

If the two types of media do not collaborate, he warned, it will"create two different cultures within one news organization."

Citing the Washington Post as an example, he said that on oneoccasion, an investigative reporter from the print section worked ona story for six months, but the digital department was not informeduntil three days before publication.

Kebble pointed out that in the world of digital media, therelationship between readers and the editors takes on a new form inwhich readers can now be their own publishers of the stories theygather. One major setback for the phenomenon, however, is that unlikeprofessional journalists, bloggers or citizen reporters are notrequired to adhere to the code of ethics of the trade, thusincreasing the chances of distributing faulty or questionable news,he said.

The solution lies in "media literacy, " he said, in which readersare educated on how to recognize authentic news stories as opposed tomere opinions, and the untrained writers are "encouraged" to live bythe ground rules of the profession.

Recognizing that many companies are reluctant to dive into thedigital media area because the business model implies that onlinecontent should be free of charge and online advertising is perceivedas having no intrinsic value, Kebbel said both the audience and thenews sector have to reshape their mindsets in order for companies toreap profits from their digital departments.

Online advertising can be very lucrative, he said, but it willtake at least another decade before signs of visible profits willbecome evident.

Taking the New York Times as another example, Kebbel said that although it is making more money each year from its website, thecurrent income generated from online news is still only about 15percent-20 percent of the total revenue.

However, the paper predicts that in 10 years, the revenue fromits online service will reach the same level as its print newssection, he noted.

(By Jenny W. Hsu, James Lee and Lee Hsin-Yin)
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