Internet erodes journalistic ethics

NEW YORK: While the Internet may be a boon to PR pros and journalists, it has taken its toll on journalistic credibility and ethics.

NEW YORK: While the Internet may be a boon to PR pros and journalists, it has taken its toll on journalistic credibility and ethics.

NEW YORK: While the Internet may be a boon to PR pros and

journalists, it has taken its toll on journalistic credibility and

ethics.



That was one key finding of the sixth annual Middleberg/Ross Print Media

in Cyberspace Study, which examines how and when journalists are using

the Internet. This year’s survey, co-authored by Middleberg + Associates

chairman and CEO Don Middleberg and Steven Ross, an associate professor

at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, was expanded to

include more information on credibility and ethical concerns.



Survey results were based on responses to a questionnaire mailed in

September to 1,509 managing and business editors at daily newspapers and

managing editors of 2,500 American magazines. The response rate was just

under 10%, with nearly 400 responses.



Sixty percent of those surveyed said that they would consider reporting

on an Internet rumor if confirmed by an independent source, while 12%

said they would not and 3% admitted to already having done so.



And while corporations may put a lot of money into developing their Web

sites, most journalists do not view them as credible sources of

information.



When asked to rank various online sources on a five-point scale ranging

from ’not credible’ to ’highly credible,’ only trade association sites

were seen as more credible than not. The least credible sites were

message boards and chat groups.



’Lack of credibility is of some concern,’ said Middleberg. ’It says to

me that we in PR haven’t done our job as well as we might. We have to

convince journalists that sites are not marketing brochures by being

truthful conveyors of information.’



Middleberg said that one of the strongest PR benefits of the Internet is

its ability to provide immediate feedback. ’The beauty of the Internet

is that it enhances communication with journalists and answers the

biggest question CEOs and COOs always complain about, which is that you

can’t measure the impact of PR,’ said Middleberg. ’If a client goes on

CNN, we know that their site gets spikes immediately.’



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