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Review: Online Journalism Ethics (Friend & Singer)

Book coverOnline Journalism Ethics: Traditions and Transitions
Cecilia Friend and Jane B. Singer
ME Sharpe, 2007, 245 pp., ISBN 0765615738

On April 16, 2007, a 23-year-old man shot and killed 32 people at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. As the shootings were taking place students reported what was taking place on blogs, mobile phones, instant messaging, Flickr, Wikipedia, and social networks.

As they did so, journalists started arriving in search of information and reaction. Some “lurked”, taking what they found and publishing it elsewhere; others engaged in “digital doorstepping” – asking students for their experiences and feelings, or if they’d be willing to be interviewed on camera.

While traditional journalists saw the material as being ‘in the public domain’, many students reacted angrily to the invasion of what they saw as ‘their’ space. It was an example of worlds colliding, highlighting the new ethical challenges facing journalists as new media technologies enabled the distinction between public and private, and between publisher and audience, to collapse.

In this context, Friend and Singer’s book on the ethics of online journalism is hugely welcome. Continue reading