Home Media THE INTERNET AND ITS CHALLENGES TO NIGERIAN JOURNALISTS

THE INTERNET AND ITS CHALLENGES TO NIGERIAN JOURNALISTS

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By Lawal Sa’idu Funtua,

1.1 INTRODUCTION

The digitalization of the news production, transmission and
circulation process has posed a major challenge to the journalism
profession. The older media are also facing serious risk with the
emergence of the internet. The internet provided a multiple platform
for story telling. You can via the internet read scripts, listen to
audio and watch visuals. This however makes some observers to conclude
that the end has come for newspaper, radio and television. It also
indicated that journalists with multiple skills stand the chance of
coping with the new realities.

1.2 EVOLUTION OF THE COMPUTER

The computer can be described as the backbone of internet. The
earliest version of computer were basically adding machines designed
to take the drudgery out of repetitive arithmetical calculations
(Dominick, 2009). In the 17th century, a French Mathematician and
philosopher Blaise Pascal created the arithmatique, a machine the size
of a shoebox filled with interconnected 10-toothed wheels that could
add numbers up to one million. A few decades later, the German
Mathematician Gootfred Wilhelm Von Leibniz explored the subject of
binary arithmetic, a system with just two possible values, 0 and 1.
The binary system is the one used by modern computers (Dominick,
2009).

It was in 1940 that a Harvard University mathematician, Howard Aiken,
made the next breakthrough when he created a digital computer. A few
years later, researchers at the University of Pennysylvania
constructed the first all-electronic computer (Dominick, 2009).
According to Dominick, 2009, it was in 1990 that the world saw an
explosion in computer communication that continues today.

1.3 HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT OF THE INTERNET

(A) WHAT IS INTERNET

The internet is a world-wide collection of thousands of interlinked
computers. The backbone of the internet is made up of high capacity
computer networks that then link to regional and local networks.
Individuals or organizations can link to the local network directly or
through a local Internet Service Provider, ISP (Adamu, 2009).

(B) HISTORICAL EVOLUTION OF INTERNET

In the early 1970s, when the cold war was still raging, the US
department of Defense was concerned about the vulnerability of its
computers network to nuclear attack. The Pentagon did not want to lose
all its computing and communication ability to one well-placed atomic
bomb. This fear however push the defense computer experts to
decentralized the whole system by creating an interconnected web of
computer networks. The net was designed so that every computer could
talk to every other computer. Information was packaged in a packet
called an internet protocol packet, which contained the destination
address of the target computer. With this the computer figured out how
to send the packet (Dominick, 2009).

According to Dominick, 2009, the system that the Pentagon eventually
developed was called ARPANET. The users of this early network were
primarily scientists and computer experts and most observers thought
that it would continue to be of interest only to high-tech types. In
the 1980s, the national science foundation, whose own network was
already connected to the net, created the super computing centres in
the US Universities.

It was in 1990 that the World Wide Web (WWW) was developed. Engineers
working at a physics laboratory in Switzerland created an
interconnected set of computers on the net that all used the same
communication programme (Dominick, 2009). This programme took
advantage of hypertext, a navigational tool that linked one electronic
document, either text or graphics, with another thus creating a
virtual web pages (Adamu, 2009).

The web started off as an electronic information resource for
scientist but was quickly discovered and utilized by the entire
internet community. With this development any organization or
individual could create a page on the web as long as the person or
organization used the communication rules developed in Switzerland
(Dominick, 2009). It was after this that conventional media companies,
businesses, organizations and individuals got involved with the web.

(C) THE STRUCTURE AND FEATURES OF THE INTERNET

Internet has certain structures and features that make it a unique
medium. Internet is a global network of computer networks. In more
technical terms, this means that a group of two or more networks is
electronically connected and able to communicate with one another.
Together they act as a single network. For this work, however, the
computers have to speak a common language. The common language, called
a protocol by computer programmers, that was developed for the
internet is called the Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol
(TCP/IP). It is actually a set of protocols that govern how data
travel from one machine to another over networks. IP is sort of like
the address on an envelop. It tells a computer where to send a
particular message, Dominick, 2009.

An individual can gain access to the internet in one of two ways: (i)
Through an Internet Service Provider (ISP), a company that connects to
subscriber to the net and usually charges a fee and secondly, through
an Online Service Provider (OSP) such as America online or MSN,
Dominick, 2009.

If one is connected to the internet, an individual can make use of a
variety of tools for information, entertainment, and communication.
The three of the more proper applications are (1) e-mail (2)
newsgroups and (3) world wide web.

(a) E-Mail: Million of people are connected to the internet and you
can send mail to one of them or many of them. E-mail works on
client/server arrangements. To send and read e-mail, user must access
another computer, where their mailbox resides. E-mail messages are not
limited to text, attachments, such as graphics, sound or spreadsheets
can also be sent. E-mail is usually fast, cheap and reliable. It is
the most widely used internet resources. In 2006, more than 10
trillion e-mail messages moved through the net, Dominick, 2009.

(b) Newsgroups: These are collections of electronic bulletin boards,
arranged according to topic; where people can read and post messages.
Some newsgroups are devoted to current events, but the news in
newsgroups refers to topical discussion groups, not news in the
traditional sense. The resources and information in the articles that
make-up the news are written by people interested in the topic. Others
can read the articles and comment on them. The newsgroup exists on a
special network called Usenet, a component of the internet. There are
more than 40,000 different newsgroups, with topics ranging from the
highly intellectual to the downright weird, Dominick, 2009.

(c) The World Wide Web: The World Wide Web is a network of information
sources incorporating hypertext that allows the user link one piece of
information to another. It is imperative to understand that the web is
part of the internet, the two terms are not synonymous. The Web is
non-linear which means the user does not have to follow a hierarchical
path from one piece of information to another. The user can jump from
the middle of one document into the middle of another. In addition,
the Web incorporates text, graphics, sound and motion. A Web site is a
complete set of hypertext pages linked to each other that contains
information about a common topic. A Web page is a hypertext page that
is contained within a web site. A home-page of a Web site is the entry
or doorway to the site that might contain links to other pages or to
various sections of the site. The tremendous variety of sites and the
motives behind them make it difficult to describe Web sites in general
terms. There are sites maintained by big media companies which they
use to promote their traditional media products and to build an
audience for the online content as well; Dominick, 2009.

1.4 THE USE OF INTERNET IN THE MEDIA

The internet plays a vital role in Newspaper, Radio and Television
production. The roles include among other news gathering, writing,
editing, designed, transmission, distribution and production.

In the area of news gathering and writing reporters are able to
contact news sources in far away places and get relevant information
from them without having to travel. A journalists can also refer to
the internet to get relevant information and would serve as a
background to his write-ups.

Editing of copies, sound and visuals is also done on computer. News
scripts, sound and visuals are transferred from the newsroom to the
editor’s computer. It is from these computers that corrections were
made, Anaeto, Solo-Anaeto, and Tejumaiye, 2009. With this technology
all production process in the old medium is now more flexible, easier
and saves a lot of time.

Internet also plays a major role in distribution and circulation of
materials programmes produced by Newspapers, Radio and Television. The
internet in this direction is used to offer on-line subscription for
publication, search for effective outlets for sales and display
on-line adverts.

1.5 INTERNET AND FUTURE OF THE OLD MEDIA

The emergence of internet as a new medium has put to risk the survival
of the older medium. The internet provided a platform where stories
can be told from multiple platforms. This however triggered the debate
over the possibility of the survival of older medium such as the
Television, Newspapers and Radio.

Wilzig and Avigdor, 2004, provided an insight into the inter-media
struggle for survival in the internet age. Wilzig and Avigdor, 2004
present a natural life cycle model of new media development. To cut it
short, according to Wilzig and Avigdor, 2004, the six stages include:
birth (technical invention), penetration, growth, maturity, self
defence and adaptations and convergence.

Similarly, Wilzig and Avigdor, 2004 present a human metaphor of media
development. This provided that each media goes through the stages of
elitist – popular – senior citizenship.

Going by this analysis we can comfortably conclude that the older
medium will survive and will adapt to the new challenges.

1.6 THE CHALLENGES OF CONVERGENCE:

One of the most prominent implication of internet is the convergence.
According to Quinn, 2008, convergence varies form country to country,
company to company and culture to culture. Therefore convergence can
be viewed from broader perspective and may be seen as the process of
telling news stories through multiple media platforms in order to
communicate the story through the most appropriate medium, through
cooperation and collaboration to serve the public interest better.

To Quinn, 2008, the issue of convergence is about doing better
journalism in the digital news media environment. The underlying
premise is that a radical change mindset and attitude among managers
and journalist is necessary for a fuller realization of the potential
of convergence.

According to Quinn, 2008, there is the urgent need for media
practitioners to move towards a convergence model because journalists
who have been trained to have a multi-media mindset are equipped with
better tools to tell more interesting stories. The acquisition of
newspapers by big radio, television, on-line organization, a newspaper
reporter is expected to file his stories for all these multi-media
platforms. In Nigeria most of the media outfits are operating an
off-line and on-line version.

1.7 THE NEW FRONTIER

To us Nigerian journalists the internet has provided a new frontier of
opportunities. As journalists and front runners in the crusade for
good governance, the journalists can effectively use internet to reach
a wider audience.

The internet provides an opportunity for journalists and mass
communication students to use numerous avenues provided to get
themselves fully engaged in the task of carrying their ideas across.
Blogs can be created free of charge by journalists and mass
communication students to serve as a platform for them to reach out to
the world.

With the internet that makes almost every individual a journalist,
trained journalists cannot afford to hide information. Most of the
breaking stories of wider global attention were broken by
non-journalists through the internet. The extent of Tsunami crisis and
how it happened were broken by non-journalists. The way Saddam
Husseini of Iraq was hanged was recorded and transmitted via internet
by non-journalists. The way the leader of the Boko Haram sect was
executed was captured on the camera and posted on the internet via
U-Tube.

A major challenge to Nigerian journalists is the existence of some
on-line websites. Most of these web-sites provided some vital
information about events in Nigeria which usually took Nigerian media
weeks to verify and report.

However, heart warming is that most of Nigerian papers, especially,
Daily Trust and Leadership provided a kind of news alert to inform
their on-line readers of a story that just break.

1.8 THE WAY FORWARD

I strongly feel that journalists with adequate computer and internet
knowledge stand a better chance of competing under the new media
challenge. It is imperative for media practitioners to provide
computer training for their workers. Our local Radio, Television and
Newspaper outfits must embrace the internet to get across to a wider
audience who might appreciate their environment.

CONCLUSION

Here I will only stress my earlier appeal to Nigerian journalists that
we must equip our skills to meet up with the challenges of the new
technological realities. We must also sharpen our skills of going
after stories as they break, living our audience at the mercies of
on-line websites is both dangerous and counter productive.

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