Digital Media is Becoming Indispensable

While online news media may not yet be completely indispensable to all, their impact thus far is hard to ignore, said speakers on a panel debating the indispensability of online media during the 5th International Symposium on Online Journalism on Friday.

“It may not be indispensable at the end of the day, but it darn sure is growing,” said Doug Feaver, executive editor of

Charlotte-Anne Lucas, content director for, said that users are able to access online media in places where they cannot access traditional media like newspapers. Many soldiers from San Antonio presently serving in Iraq, she noted, use to keep up with events at home, which allows them to get more current information about their hometown than they would get from newspapers.

Steve Klein, coordinator of the electronic journalism program at George Mason University, was skeptical about the indispensability of online media. While Internet use is common, especially among youth, people are still more apt to get their news from other sources.

Steve Outing, senior editor at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, characterized online media as “partly indispensable.” While use of these media are increasing rapidly, visitors do not yet use these media with the frequency that they use traditional media.

According to Doug Feaver, Sept. 11 is the event that made online media indispensable.

“With 9/11, we saw that this is a media that can reach people at work like nothing else can,” he said.

All of the presenters said that online media must work to make their content unique and easier to access. Most people, the panelists argued, still have difficulties understanding and navigating through Web sites.

“The issue of indispensability is tied up in presentation on the Web, and we haven’t solved that yet,” Feaver said.

ISOJ 2004: Online News Status, from Knight Center on Vimeo.