Francis Rizzo
Journalism and Mass Media Studies Department -- School of Communication
Journalism 150 -- Independent Study
Advisor: Steven Knowlton


The Internet, that valuable source of rumor, innuendo, and cyber-porn, has established itself as a major player in the world of consumer journalism. Merrill Brown, MSNBC's editor-in-chief, claims his site, a cooperative venture from NBC and Microsoft, is visited by 800,000 to 900,000 users each day. "This would make us the fifth-biggest newspaper in the country, were we in that business," he said.

But if they aren't in the newspaper business, what business are they in? As an archive the Internet is unlike any other. It can store multitudes in a compact area, and easily recall its enclosed information when asked. For this purpose, known as "shovelware" in the industry, it is unmatched. No other medium has offered as much information to as many people at one time, and it should be lauded as such an innovation.

But what about its position as a competitor to the daily papers? Does it stand on its on? For most people, no. There are very few mediums as compact, portable and easy to use as a newspaper, and in this battle the Internet loses dramatically. A computer requires electricity, hardware, software, an Internet connection, and a source to present the news to you. A newspaper requires a pair of eyes and a paper. User-friendly indeed.

In the long run, the Internet may be more cost-efficient to read than your daily 50 cent New York Times, but the start-up cost is prohibitive for most Americans. An Internet-ready computer is the norm in middle-class America, but what about the rest of the United States, the majority of our society? According to recent surveys there is a large gap between the haves and the have-nots of the cyber-world. If reading a newspaper came down to owning a computer or not, it is a good bet that the majority of readers would soon own the prefix ex- for their descriptions. That doesn't even include changes in technology that may occur.

These arguments are of course based in the idea that there isn't a level playing field between print journalism and on-line journalism. To help this examination, let's say that everyone has access to the Internet. Now which is going to succeed? To decide this debate, one must examine what has made newspapers an American institution. Timeliness, trust, content, and other criteria should be examined before handing newspaper's crown to the Internet.