Communication studies, according to Wikipedia(2011), is an academic field that deals with the processes of communication commonly defined as the sharing of symbols over distances in space and time. Hence, a communication study encompasses a wide range of topics and contexts ranging from face-to-face conversation to speeches to mass media outlets such as television broadcasting. Communication studies, as a discipline, are also often interested in how audiences interpret information and the political, cultural, economic, and social dimensions of speech and language in context. Journalism is one of the branches of communication studies which have to do with proper or in depth investigating and reporting of events and issues to a large (broad) audience.
Journalism like other discipline is guided by some ethics; the idea behind journalism is to accurately inform the masses or citizenry on an event or issue that concerns them. According to Wikipedia (2011), in modern society, news media has become the chief purveyor of information and opinion about public affairs; but the role and status of journalism, along with other forms of mass media, are undergoing changes resulting from the Internet, especially Web 2.0.
Still, on the Wikipedia (2011), the Internet carries a vast range of information resources and services, such as the inter-linked hypertext documents of the World Wide Web (WWW) and the infrastructure to support electronic mail.
Most traditional communications media including telephone, music, film, and television are reshaped or redefined by the Internet, giving birth to new services such as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and IPTV. Newspaper, book and other print publishing are adapting to Website technology, or are reshaped into blogging and web feeds.
Although, internet journalism was practiced by some journalists which made little or no impact on the audience, but the September 11 attack on the US world trade center brought it to the limelight. Thus, this made internet journalism the most effective in the communication industries.
According to Allan (2002), Journalism after September 11 examines how the traumatic attacks of that day continue to transform the nature of journalism, particularly in the United States and Britain. In Nigeria, it brings together an internationally respected group of scholars and media commentators to explore journalism’s present and future by engaging with such pressing issues as trauma, free speech, censorship, patriotism, impartiality, and celebrity.
Journalism after September 11 raises vitally important questions regarding what journalism can and should look like today. In providing answers, it addresses topics such as journalism and public life at a time of crisis; the role of sources in shaping the news; reporting by global news media, such as CNN; current affairs broadcasting; news photography and trauma; the emotional well-being of reporters; as well as a host of pertinent issues around news, democracy and citizenship.
In her article, Bunz (2009), said journalists are coming to terms with the internet changing the way they research, organize their workflow and distribute their content. The biggest publications all over Europe have, for example, Twitter channels, led by the UK with nearly 70% and followed by nearly 40% in the Netherlands. 35% use blogs to research stories and 13.5% even have their own independent blog.
In Nigeria, Some media organizations have already established a strong presence on the internet. For example, The Guardian Newspapers (www.ngrguardiannews.com), The Thisday Newspaper group (www.thisdayonline.com), The Independent Newspaper group (www.independentng.com), New Age Newspaper (www.newage-online.com) and soon have continued to be veritable sources of news and information to both Nigerians at home and abroad.
However, the speed and spread of internet network in Nigeria are still not incomparable to that of the developed countries. The unstable state of the internet in Nigeria is another great challenge facing the masses which makes it difficult for an average Nigerian to log in the above websites in search of news.
According to Nworah (2011), it can be said therefore that the Nigerian media are measuring up with their counterparts in other parts of the world by maintaining a strategic presence on the information superhighway. But any such attempt at ‘rubbing shoulders’ with the western media stops just with the internet sites which some Nigerian media organizations have managed to set up as other facilities and resources are still largely unavailable to Nigerian journalists. For example, company sponsored laptop computers with mobile internet access, digital recording devices, open access mobile telephones and salaries that take into consideration global trends, market prices and national inflation rates. Again, for internet journalism to sway or be successful in Nigeria, the concepts of the popularized FAN (free readers association of Nigeria) need to be eradicated. The acronym is used to refer to the practice where people cluster around newspaper vendors’ stand to read newspapers and magazines without actually buying anyone. This in a sense show or reflect the socio-economic situation which an average Nigerian finds himself or herself into. An average Nigerian cannot afford a laptop and going to the cyber cafe to pay for an air time to listen or read news amidst the huge amount paid for the air time and the inconsistency of the internet is unthinkable. This to a large extent affects internet journalism among the media organization in Nigeria.
Nevertheless, the advent of the internet may permit readers to log on to the websites and then freely read any newspaper or magazine of their choice, but this obviously will have a huge negative impact on revenues as less hard copies will be bought and the great lost will be on the media organization. The fear definitely deters media organization from using internet journalism as the lost from hard copy will negatively affect them.
Looking at the way internet journalism has affected communication and the masses of the developing country like Nigeria, can this be said of other countries in West Africa? This research proposal will explore the impact of internet journalism so far in Nigeria and the effects on the media organizations and the masses.