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Excellence in Online Journalism

Excellence in Online Journalism
Exploring Current Practices in an Evolving Environment

September 2010 | 192 pages | SAGE Publications, Inc

Like the technologies that support it, the craft of online journalism is evolving quickly. This timely book helps students develop standards of excellence, through interviews with more than 30 writers, editors and producers, and dozens of examples of strong work. The author provides a framework of concepts to show how the field is evolving and challenged by competition, staffing limitations, and other pressures. Discussion is organized around four key elements: speed and accuracy with depth in breaking news; comprehensiveness in multimedia content; open-endedness in story development, including public contributions; and conversation with users. Chapter-length treatments of these topics bring home the realities of online work to students, who also come to appreciate how excellence and ethics online go hand in hand.

1. Excellence Online: A Work in Progress
Excellence in Old and New Media

Excellence Online: Four Developing Standards

2. An Ethical Lens for Looking at Excellence
A Practice: The Social Context

Telos: The Big-Picture Goal

Internal Goods: Distinctive Achievements of the Practice

Standards of Excellence: Setting the Bar for the Field

Virtues: The Qualities of Good Character

External Goods and Institutions: Danger Lurking

3. Speed and Accuracy With Depth in Breaking News
The Battle to Be Fast and Right: An Old Challenge With New Pressures

Insights from Online Journalists: Giving Voice to a Standard

Breaking News Through an Ethical Lens

Online Excellence in Development: The Hudson River Jet Landing

Challenges to Maintaining and Enhancing Excellence

Overcoming the Challenges: Virtues in Action

On-the-Job Profile: Mark Stevenson Facing the Daily Challenges

4. Comprehensiveness in Content
Insights From Online Journalists: What Comprehensiveness Means

Challenges to Comprehensiveness

Overcoming the Challenges: Virtues in Action

On-the-Job Profile: Jenni Pinkley Facing the Daily Challenges

5. Open-endedness in Story Development
Excellence in Story Development Online

The Dynamic of Excellence

Challenges to Excellence in Story Development: External Goods Lurking

Attitude Check: Virtues for 21st-Century Journalists

On-the-Job Profile: Robert Quigley Facing the Daily Challenges

6. The Centrality of Conversation
A Longtime Value Takes Center Stage

Standards of Excellence in Online Conversation

The Dynamic of Excellence in Conversation

Now for the Challenges: Stumbling Blocks in the "Conversational Commons"

Virtue and Conversation

On-the-Job Profile: Eric Zorn Facing the Daily Challenges

7. Beyond the Big Guys: Independent and Community Journalism Online
Perspectives from Three Smaller Organizations

Citizen Journalism, Social Media, and Journalism as a Practice

8. The Future of Excellence in Online Journalism: Living in the World of Both-And
The World of Both-And

What It Takes to Work in the World of Both-And

About the Author

"I think it is a great idea and will fill a need, both for my class and other, more skills-oriented online journalism courses. I like that it includes ethics but goes beyond that – the four elements of excellence on the Web go to the unique characteristics of the medium and therefore give students something new to think about and discuss, whether from the viewpoint of journalists or as media consumers. ... The book, by looking specifically at opportunities and challenges of ethical journalism ONLINE, will contribute to understanding both journalism ethics (because there are new challenges online) and the general practice of online journalism."

Kathy Olson
Lehigh University

Reading about the practices and insights of working professionals is the book’s greatest appeal. Chapters are richly detailed and address significant issues in online journalism. The writing is brisk and highly readable, and the examples are well chosen.”

Steven D. Koski
College of Saint Elizabeth

“The greatest benefit is Craig’s focus on the interrelated nature of the multiple forms of information presentation and the need for practitioners to move beyond the traditional journalism model.”

Michael Williams
University of Kansas

"Excellence in Online Journalism provides a great deal of concrete information for students. Its grounding in the tradition of journalism ethics makes it particularly valuable since the ethics become so well integrated into the practice. Students should easily learn that becoming an ethical reporter will make them a better reporter. Those teaching online journalism will do their students a good service by considering this book."

Paul A Soukup, SJ
Santa Clara University
Communication Research Trends

"Craig uses the philosophical approach of the Notre Dame scholar Alasdair MacIntyre as applied by the media ethicists Sandra Borden and, to a lesser extent, Edmund Lambeth. This philosophical approach allows for the consideration of developing standards in the digital era, challenging some old rules while incorporating most of them into a rede?nition.”

Mark Neuzil, Ph.D.
Department of Communication and Journalism, University of St. Thomas
Journal of Mass Media Ethics

“Institutions, such as media companies, come in for criticism when the balance of quality and pro?t get out of whack. Craig does a good job providing examples of how the professionals he interviewed attempt to keep quality in the product.”

Mark Neuzil, Ph.D.
Department of Communication and Journalism, University of St. Thomas
Journal of Mass Media Ethics

“Craig’s book is appropriate in a journalism ethics course, although I would be tempted to assign it in an advanced multimedia reporting class to flesh out the ethical dimensions of a journalist’s decision making while showcasing the new best practices.”

Mark Neuzil, Ph.D.
Department of Communication and Journalism, University of St. Thomas
Journal of Mass Media Ethics

'This handbook will be welcome on any practical journalism course, especially at colleges that embrace the potential for theory-practice synergies. Its thoughtful approach via four elements of excellence, and the idea of external and internal goods, admirably situates thinking about journalism at the heart of doing it. [...] This book is remarkably up to date and should remain that way thanks to its companion website'

Rob Campbell
University of Glamorgan

A very useful addition to the literature. Practical examples and invaluable advice from experience4d practitioners.

Mrs Deborah Robinson
Department of Journalism, University of Central Lancashire
March 9, 2015

The book is good and I found its perspective on the experience of professional journalists adapting to online platforms highly valuable. However, I was considering it as a supplemental text in my news writing course, and it definitely requires a higher level of expertise and commitment to the field than my students currently possess. I will be passing it on to a colleague who does research in online journalism - she may find it more useful in her work. Thank you.

Eleanor Novek
Communications Dept, Monmouth University
April 11, 2011
Key features

Key features:

  • Includes the voices of online journalists from ten news organizations: These experiences allow students to learn directly from professionals in the field. End-of-chapter, on-the-job profiles show examples of a journalist facing the challenges of a particular day.
  • Practical insights are connected with a conceptual framework for understanding excellence in online journalism: Students will see online tools such as interactive graphics, blogs, and social media as part of the bigger picture of growth and change in the practice of journalism.
  • Focuses on the personal qualities, or virtues, that make for excellent work: These discussions show what it takes to be successful in online journalism, beyond basic skills.
  • A Student Study Site at provides links to the examples of online journalism work discussed in each chapter.

For instructors

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