January 7, 1998

Video comes to the Web

CNN, the New York Times and APTV have begun experimenting with streaming video to present news clips on the Net

This column appeared in the January-February 1998 issue of  The American Journalism Review.

By J.D. Lasica

Quietly, without much fanfare, online news sites have begun making good use of a revolutionary new information tool. It’s called video.

Until now, anyone seeking to capture the flavor and texture of a news event was limited to surfing the old-fashioned way: with a TV set and remote control. News sites on the Web have offered the occasional QuickTime video, but that required long download times, typically several minutes for just a 30-second clip — hardly worth the trouble.

But a fairly new technology called streaming video allows users to watch news clips instantly, at the click of a mouse, though the quality is a bit herky-jerky if you have anything less than an ISDN line.

The New York Times on the Web began offering streaming video during its coverage of Princess Diana’s death in August. Now it offers video with one or two stories roughly four days a week.

“We’re still in a learning curve,” says Bernard Gwertzman, the site’s editor, “but it’s evident there are people who think a news operation on the Internet should have components beyond the printed word — video, animation, multimedia. At this point, it’s a minority of people who like the bells and whistles, but we’ll go the extra length for them.”

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December 7, 1997

Preserving old ethics in a new medium

To avert ethical problems in cyberspace, cling to traditional journalism values

This column appeared in the December 1997 issue of The American Journalism Review. I was interviewed on the topic of Internet news sources’ trustworthiness by Bloomberg Radio on April 4, 1998.

By J.D. Lasica

If ethics are rarely debated during the daily miracle of churning out a newspaper, the subject is rarer still in the whiz-bang, techno-toy-driven realm of new media.

While all the old ethical rules surely still apply in new media, the Internet also presents dilemmas that never existed in a print world: reporters lurking invisibly in chat rooms; ad links embedded into editorial copy; the posting of private tragedies in news archives until the end of time; tracking users’ habits and sharing that data with advertisers; putting the tools of publishing into the hands of little league coaches and others who aren’t trained journalists.

But the ethical issue that may soon dwarf all others centers on what I call transaction journalism: the quid pro quo between a Web publication and outside interests such as advertisers or business allies. To the degree that it blurs the line between editorial and commercial interests, it poses a threat to the integrity of Web journalism.

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