According to Lasica (2001), the online medium gives journalists the powerful tools of context and authentication. Osborn (2001) suggested that the immediacy brought by the online environment, a medium where everyone is a potential publisher, allows for even less deliberation by the journalist and editor. Matters of anonymity, identity, access to information and protection of intellectual property impact the practice of online journalism.
Thousands of people have signed up for e-mail alerts whenever major news breaks and we usually flock to our computer screens for the latest developments whenever a big story hits. Therefore, people want news which is fast but credible.
The challenge facing online journalists is to balance the legitimate desires of the online audience for up-to-the-minute reports with the profession's traditions of fairness, completeness, balance and accuracy (Lasica, 2001).With the latest case of Michael Jackson’s death, online journalists did not do a good job in covering the breaking news. It was because each journalist was assigned to several jobs at once.
Therefore, news organizations should reexamine how they handle breaking news in a hyper-competitive, instant-publishing environment. As a start, online journalists should disclose as much as possible, check thoroughly then tell the truth and be honest (Niles, 2007).
When handling breaking news, news organizations should have many journalists on standby. Then, every journalist should be assigned to one task only, whether to publish or to report. If the information are not consistent, accurate and fast, news organizations may lose credibility.
However, in this situation, smart news organizations should acknowledge to their followers and readers that they know the report is out there and that people are talking about it, and report where the organization is with its own reporting (Niles, 2009).
Every major breaking news events offers its lessons to the news organizations that covered it. People are expecting fast news, but they also want it to be credible. Without much systematic organization in the news corporation, fast and credible news will not be achieved.
However, people must also be aware that some microblogging sites or "news publisher" do not produce credible news.
Lasica, JD 2001, How the Net is shaping journalism ethics, jdlasica.com, viewed on 18 November 2009, http://www.jdlasica.com/articles/newsethics.html.
Niles, R 2009, Michael Jackson’s death and its lessons for online journalists covering breaking news, OJR: The Online Journalism Review, viewed on 18 November 2009, http://www.ojr.org/ojr/people/robert/200906/1755/.
Niles, R 2007, What are the ethics of online journalism?, OJR: The Online Journalism Review, viewed on 18 November 2009, http://www.ojr.org/ojr/wiki/ethics/.
Osborn, B 2001, Ethics and Credibility in Online Journalism, The University of Memphis, viewed on 18 November 2009, http://bradleyosborn.com/z/RESUME/academic/ethics_and_credibility_in_online_journalism.pdf.