In a traditional media environment, money is the most frequent barrier to becoming a news provider. Printing presses and paper cost money. Video cameras and editing bays cost money. Transmitters and sound boards cost money. Employees cost money.
Relatively speaking, ready cash isn't a real barrier to online publishing. As the U.S. Supreme Court noted in a 1997 opinion, "Through the use of chat rooms, any person with a phone line can become a town crier with a voice that resonates farther than it could from any soapbox. Through the use of Web pages, mail exploders, and newsgroups, the same individual can become a pamphleteer."
The ease of publishing online means more and more people are turning to the Web as a place to disseminate their message. News-oriented Web sites now outnumber all the U.S. newspapers, television stations and news radio stations combined, according to Carol Sanger, Federated Department Stores vice president for corporate communications and external affairs.
Who, indeed, should you trust on the World Wide Web?
"The thing I worry most about is that people will have all the information in the world, (but) they won't have any way of evaluating whether it's true or false, A or B, even if it's true, how to put it in proper perspective," said President Clinton in a speech April 13, 2000, to the American Society of Newspaper Editors.
Sites are multiplying faster than the proverbial rabbits, and Americans are turning to the Web for news in greater and greater numbers -- especially younger Americans.
According to a national survey released April 10, 2000, by the Round Table Group:
"Traditional media have a right to feel fearful of these rapidly changing demographics," said Russ Rosenzweig, CEO of the Round Table Group. "The changeover is happening much more rapidly that anyone predicted."
With a greater dependence on online news, the credibility of that news becomes more important. With thousands of sites screaming for our attention, credibility may determine how many people visit the site and if they return to the site for information. Traffic to a site in turn determines how much that site can charge advertisers and ultimately the site's economic viability.
This online project outlines many of the credibility issues facing news sites on the Web:
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