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Online Journalism: A Rose By Any Other Name?
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BY NIKI SCEVAK (profile) | May 01, 2001

The move by the Victorian Government to ban Internet journalist Stephen Mayne from a media conference raised an interesting question: Is Internet journalism different from its print counterpart?

There are two facets to this question, firstly from an industry perspective - which this event highlights - and secondly from a content and style viewpoint.

In offering a reason for the exclusion, a flustered Premier Steve Bracks said that "Internet services are quite different, I think, aren't they?" Furthermore, Sharon McCrohan (Media Director to Steve Bracks) sent an email to Mayne stating that "if you [Mayne] were still working for an accredited media organisation and were not in the category of 'other interest groups' who are seeking to attend this press conference you would be more than welcome."

Mayne argued back, saying that his site,, had 1150 daily subscribers and 20,000 views a week. Mayne is also an accredited journalist, previously holding positions at the AFR and The Age.

With the relatively low publishing costs of the web and small overheads, established journalists like Mayne have the opportunity to branch out and exist independently. At what point though, should they be considered an organisation? In this case the answer is when he or she has a significant influence in the minds of a company or PR manager - although how that is quantified is a difficult proposition.

The second argument is how the two media - print and Internet - differ from each other in a style and content sense. To date, the differences have been subtle, with the economies of scale of repurposing print content online a hindrance to experimentation.

The fundamental thing to remember though, is that the Internet is an interactive medium. In this sense, the Internet becomes a more conversational medium, with writers conscious of the reader relationship. Also with the ability to comment, stories take on greater context, as a number of different perspectives are made possible.

Moreover, the convergence of TV with the Internet is also playing a part in how online media is formulated. Here aggregated audience opinion is key, with show outcomes being pinned to online polls. Without the luxury of print content to leverage, Television is also forced to think about the principles of written media in a different way.

Online media is not all that much different to print media yet, however there are encouraging signs such as and, which clearly highlight the divergent benefits of online media.

NOTE: Nigel Dews (CEO, f2), Ian Vaile (Head of Development and Production, ABC) and Mark Holland (VP of Interactive Services Asia Pacific, Gartner) will be discussing the opportunities and the future of online media this Friday in Sydney. Moreover, the topic will be further discussed at our Melbourne Breakfast Forum on May 18. To register for either of this month's Breakfast Forums goto


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Internet Journalism
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Online Journalism
It is no longer up to the politicans or anyone else to determine who is or is not a "press" person. Provided they are there to listen and ask questions rather than make declarations and disrupt, they have a right to attend and the conference giver will discover that they have an obligation to permit entry. The rules are simply changing and we will work this out in time.
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Hello? This is the 21st century calling!
The fools. All they're doing is guaranteeing negative coverage far more significant and wide-ranging than anything government members or their lackeys might say.

Mayne will still write his story and publish it on his Web site, the only difference is that we have something new to ridicule the government over...

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Cut through the BS
Stephen Mayne got evicted/barred because of who he is and what he does, not what he might be. He has been a thorn in the side of the Victorian government for a long time and was rejected for that reason alone. The rest of it was a convenient ruse.

Earle: The purpose of journalists is to bring the story to those who cannot attend for themselves -- there is no reason, other than logistical, to bar anyone. I've been to press conferences where there were bugger-all journalists and everyone who wanted to be let in was - accredited or not. I've also been to press conferences where fully accredited disrupters were forcibly removed.

There's no difference between online and offline journalists other than the reach of their publications - which was a reason that lots of online journalists were barred or ignored during the pre-US Presidential election conventions. It was pure political expediency then and it was pure political expediency this time.

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Online Media
The Mayne incident says little about the distinctions between online and offline journalism, but says plenty about PR/Press liaison control of the media. In recent years, mainstream journalism has come to serve as what media researchers portray as a channel for Government and business, via their PR consultancy firms, to upload controlled news about their exploits in the public domain, ostensibly to a) save on advertising and b) utilise the impact of press coverage to further their aims. Media expert Richard Ericson casts this 'negotiated control' as a means of co-opting mainstream media so that 'access' can be readily arranged to important information, and dissent can be excluded from bringing across contrary positions. If access for journalists is to be ensured, stories must be covered 'properly' and those outside the PR loop, the Mayne and M1 protesters of the fray, are at the mercy of a media that cannot hope to understand fully their position, unless it were transmitted to them via PR-headed releases. Add to this the increasing reliance on image, or vision based news, packaged 'VNRs' that make the prime time news, commercial disclosure provisions which prevent journalists getting anywhere near a story unless a company's PR allows them to and the online media ends up being nothing more than an amplified version of the controlled offline media. Go Stephen Mayne, with a special shout out to yesterday's M1 protesters, operating outside the mainstream media has it's disadvantages, but being under PR/Govt control isn't one of them. Viva La Media Revolution!
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On-line Journalists
To ban any journalist from a media conference is ludicrous in a country where there is freedom of the press and a freedom of information act. The media director of the Victorian premier needs to go back to her basic college journalism or public relations course.

Would she also ban a reporter from the Register (UK) which has hundreds of thousands of on-line readers? Or would she also ban a journalist from the Straits Times, who writes for print and on-line media?

Media Director Sharon McCrohan shows abysmal ignorance of modern communication and the mass media.

F N Karmatz. Ph.D.

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Re: On-line Journalists
The comments regarding established, traditional publications with online sections raises a valid point. Even in America and Europe (where online publishing is more advanced
than Australia) journalists continue to have trouble being recognised.

Government departments, from my personal experience, are the worst in Australia. They do not yet realise, when you say you are from an online magazine, that the concept
of deadline is a little different (as in, I'll "publish" as soon as I get all the info, write it up and have it subbed).

My organisation, which publishes seven "traditional" magazines as well as the online versions, has found it is often easier to tell contacts the story is simply for a magazine, and the
deadline is NOW. I feel for the publications in this country that are solely online and attempting to establish a solid reputation/recognition from the public and other
stakeholders. Don't stop trying, everyone's efforts break down the barriers just that little bit more - which I guess is what Crikey is all about!!! Keep up the good work, Stephen.
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Internet news media
The one thing the article omitted was the "immediacy" aspect of online news. The press event to which Mayne was denied access was a "lock-in" - the journos get the opportunity to analyse the contents of a complex document at the same time, so the news that follows, whether by design or not, is published pretty much at the same time. If/when internet journalists are given the same access as others, the internet journalists publish their analyses perhaps a whole day ahead of the (news)papers.
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The Mayne issue...
Democracy is one thing, crowd control another.
Nobody seems to have questioned whether Mayne's intentions were honourable, as expected of journalists.
Asking difficult questions is one thing, disrupting meetings and grand-standing at the expense of a free exchange of ideas is another.
Media access to politicians should not be manipulated, but the Premier's minders also have a duty of care to ensure he gets a fair hearing and that those genuinely interested in reporting his views can hear him out.
Arguments about the legitimacy of online journalism are only a distraction from the real issue in this case.

Scott McQuade
Platform Communications
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