25% of journalists use unchecked chatroom gossip as news source

NEW YORK: Nearly one-quarter of all journalists surveyed in a

recent nationwide study said they would consider reporting rumors

obtained via Web chatrooms or online news groups - even without

verification from an outside source. And 2% admitted they have used Web

chat and other online forums as a primary source for a news story.

These are just two of the more surprising findings from a study released

last week by Middleberg Euro RSCG and Columbia University Graduate

School of Journalism associate professor Steve Ross, which surveyed more

than 4,000 print and broadcast journalists across the country about

their online habits and use of the Internet.

'Because of budgetary and time constraints today, it's obvious that

journalistic standards have lessened from the days of jumping through

hoops to verify information with multiple sources,' said Middleberg

chairman and CEO Don Middleberg, who has conducted the survey every year

since 1995. 'Even if reported and clearly labeled as 'rumor,' stories in

the media are seen as fact. That means we as PR professionals had better

be more vigilant and proactive than ever before.'

In addition to the use of Web information for sources of news,

respondents indicated that e-mail is increasingly used to segment

sources by priority.

Specifically, nearly 12% of the reporters surveyed said they have six or

more e-mail addresses for receiving incoming communications.

'Obviously, it would seem that just getting a reporter's e-mail address

is no longer enough; now you have to make sure you have the tier-one

address to get through,' said Middleberg.

Among other interesting findings: only 45% said their media outlets

would not allow its Web site to scoop the print or broadcast side for

news; interaction between reporters and readers has increased by about

16% over last year, with nearly 70% of 2001 respondents saying they

regularly engage in dialogue with readers via e-mail and online

discussion groups; and, as in years past, journalists lag behind other

business users of the Internet in terms of information technology.

Specifically, only 32% of respondents said their media organizations are

preparing to receive higher Web bandwidth (68% said they were not), and

only 8% use PDA devices in their jobs. And even though 98% of

respondents go online at least once a day for their jobs, 71% said they

lacked training in computer-assisted research and reporting.

A full report on the results of this study is available free to

journalists and students, and for a fee of dollars 195 to others, by

calling (212) 888-6610 or e-mailing deborahc@middleberg.com.

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