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An early leader in online journalism was The News & Observer in Raleigh, North Carolina. Steve Yelvington wrote on the Poynter Institute website about Nando, owned by The N&O, by saying "Nando evolved into the first serious, professional news site on the World Wide Web -- long before CNN, MSNBC, and other followers." It originated in the early 1990s as "NandO Land". Online news sources began to proliferate in the 1990s. Salon, founded in 1995, was an early leader of online-only reporting. In 2001 the American Journalism Review called Salon the Internet's "preeminent independent venue for journalism."
As of 2009, audiences for online journalism continue to grow. In 2008, for the first time, more Americans reported getting their national and international news from the internet, rather than newspapers, and audiences to news sites continued to grow due to the launch of new news sites, continued investment in news online by conventional news organizations, and the continued growth in internet audiences overall, with new people discovering the internet's advantages for convenience, speed and depth.
However, the professional online news industry is increasingly gloomy about its financial future. Prior to 2008, the industry had hoped that publishing news online would prove lucrative enough to fund the costs of conventional newsgathering. In 2008, however, online advertising began to slow down, and little progress was made towards development of new business models. The Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism describes its 2008 report on the State of the News Media, its sixth, as its bleakest ever.
Despite the uncertainty, online journalists are cautiously optimistic, reporting expanding newsrooms. They believe advertising is likely to be the best revenue model supporting the production of online news.
Many news organizations based in other media also distribute news online, but the amount they use of the new medium varies. Some news organizations use the Web exclusively or as a secondary outlet for their content. The Online News Association, founded in 1999, is the largest organization representing online journalists, with more than 1,700 members whose principal livelihood involves gathering or producing news for digital presentation.
The Internet challenges traditional news organizations in several ways. Newspapers may lose classified advertising to websites, which are often targeted by interest instead of geography. These organizations are concerned about real and perceived loss of viewers and circulation to the Internet.
The Internet has also given rise to more participation by people who are not normally journalists, such as with Indy Media (Max Perez).
A research study conducted by Pew Research Center for The People & The Press offer a classification of newspaper readers and the movement of online readers. Around 46% of Americans are classified as Traditionalist. This means these people rely on traditional media sources like TV, newspaper and radio. Those in the Integrator category rely on traditional media as well as increasing internet news. This is around 23% of Americans. This is category is mostly of the baby boomer generation. The category that is now seeing an increase is the Net-Newsers. This is around 13% of Americans who rely mainly on the internet for their news. This category is mainly a younger generation like college graduates and who able to access the internet access easily whether it be a lap top, Blackberry or iPhone. This is where the future of readers and newspapers are headed.
Bloggers write on web logs or blogs. Traditional journalists often do not consider bloggers to automatically be journalists. This has more to do with standards and professional practices than the medium. But, as of 2005[update], blogging has generally gained at least more attention and has led to some effects on mainstream journalism, such as exposing problems related to a television piece about President George W. Bush's National Guard Service.
Other significant tools of on-line journalism are Internet forums, discussion boards and chats, especially those representing the Internet version of official media. The widespread use of the Internet all over the world created a unique opportunity to create a meeting place for both sides in many conflicts, such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the First and Second Chechen Wars. Often this gives a unique chance to find new, alternative solutions to the conflict, but often the Internet is turned into the battlefield by contradicting parties creating endless "online battles."
One emerging problem with online journalism in the United States is that, in many states, individuals who publish only on the Web do not enjoy the same First Amendment rights as reporters who work for traditional print or broadcast media. As a result, unlike a newspaper, they are much more liable for such things as libel. In California, however, protection of anonymous blog sources was ruled to be the same for both kinds of journalism.
In Canada there are more ambiguities, as Canadian libel law permits suits to succeed even if no false statements of fact are involved, and even if matters of public controversy are being discussed. In British Columbia, as part of "a spate of lawsuits" against online news sites, according to legal columnist Michael Geist, several cases have put key issues in online journalism up for rulings. Geist mentioned that Green Party of Canada financier Wayne Crookes filed a suit in which he alleged damages for an online news service that republished resignation letters from that party and let users summarize claims they contained. He had demanded access to all the anonymous sources confirming the insider information, which Geist believed would be extremely prejudicial to online journalism. The lawsuit, "Crookes versus openpolitics", attracted attention from the BBC and major newspapers, perhaps because of its humorous name. Crookes had also objected to satire published on the site, including use of the name gang of Crookes for his allies. Subsequently, Crookes sued Geist, expanding the circle of liability. Crookes also sued Google, Wikipedia, Yahoo, PBwiki, domain registrars and Green bloggers who he felt were associated with his political opponents. Crookes' attempt to enforce BC's plaintiff-friendly libel laws on California, Ontario and other jurisdictions led to an immediate backlash in bad publicity but the legal issues remain somewhat unresolved as of November 2009. Crookes lost four times on the grounds that he had not shown anyone in BC had actually read the materials on the minor websites, but this left the major question unresolved: How to deal with commentary deemed fair in one jurisdiction but actionable in another, and how to ensure that universal rights to free speech and reputation are balanced in a way that does not lead to radically different outcomes for two people who might for instance participate in a conversation on the Internet.
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Non-democratic regimes that do not respect international human rights law present special challenges for online journalism:
The Internet also offers options such as personalized news feeds and aggregators, which compile news from different websites into one site. One of the most popular news aggregators is Google News. Others include Topix.net, and TheFreeLibrary.com.
But, some people see too much personalization as detrimental. For example, some fear that people will have narrower exposure to news, seeking out only those commentators who already agree with them.
As of March 2005, Wikinews rewrites articles from other news organizations. Original reporting remains a challenge on the Internet as the burdens of verification and legal risks (especially from plaintiff-friendly jurisdictions like BC) remain high in the absence of any net-wide approach to defamation.
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