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Can Web Journalism Replace Print Media?

Can Online News Sites Do Everything Newspapers Once Did?

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With print journalism seemingly on the brink of collapse, more and more are asking whether web journalism can replace newspapers.

The short answer is, not yet.

Web journalism encompasses a whole range of things, from the websites run by newspapers to citizen journalism and non-profit news sites and even blogs.

But aside from the newspaper websites, which are an extension of the papers themselves, few of these other online news entities can compete with newspapers in terms of the breadth and scope of their coverage.

The Problem? Money. Most online news sites don't have enough money from either advertising or deep-pocketed supporters to hire a newsroom full of professional reporters.

So they often rely on recent journalism school grads or interns who will work for cheap, and they typically employ fairly small staffs.

Even with limited resources and inexperienced reporters, these sites can do good work. The Chitown Daily News, for instance, provides solid basic coverage of municipal agencies in Chicago.

But with only four full-time reporters, it can't hope to compete with the kind of full-bodied news coverage provided by the city's two main dailies, the Tribune and the Sun-Times.

Likewise, when the Seattle Post-Intelligencer recently shut down its printing presses and became a web-only operation, some hoped the P-I website would carry on the paper's proud journalistic tradition.

But with the P-I's news staff being gutted to a fraction of its former size, that seems unlikely.

Some topnotch journalism is being done by nonprofit news websites, which are typically funded by a mix of ad revenue and contributions from donors and foundations. VoiceofSanDiego.org, for example, has has earned a rep for hard-hitting investigative projects about corrupt local officials.

But the nonprofit sites also have fairly small staffs and must pick their targets carefully. They simply don't have the resources to do more.

Still, in a time when newspapers look like an endangered species, online news sites seem to be multiplying. And if they can discover a way to make money - the kind of money that will allow them to fill newsrooms with experienced reporters and editors - they may eventually become journalism's brave new world.

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