The challenge to professional journalism

How Taiwan's reporters evaluate and utilize Internet information


Peng, Hui-Ming
Research Student of Dept. of Journalism
National ChengChi University, Taiwan.
email: g7451020@grad.cc.nccu.edu.tw

 
1. Introduction

    A tourist was cheated and lost his kidney. Fried mice appeared at a fast food restaurant that was supposed to only sell fried chicken. For every individual, today' s information comes in all shades of variety due to the Internet, an invention of the 20th century. It is easy for one to get lots of unverified information on the Internet and spread it out to more people.  Sometimes information which is actually just rumors and hearsay from common gossip is picked up by reporters and becomes so-called "news".  It's all because of the open and unlimited nature of the Internet. As a result, those who were party to the rumors should stand up to clarify the truth. The worst thing is that most of these cases could never see testimony, and the truth remains unclear.

    In many ways, the gossip circulating around the Internet could be tested by common sense to find out every unreasonable factor. However, most of them usually become news or hot topics because of thousand of forwards and word of mouth. Furthermore, some information utilizes technical jargon and can really confuse general Internet users.

    Today, not only business institutions but also governmental organizations provide information on the Internet. As a result, the Internet has become a very good channel for newsgathering. Because of its powerful communications and strong research capabilities, the Internet easily lets a lot of reporters become earlier adopters of new technology. However, many specious messages still turn up because of the Internet. It makes sourcing valuable and newsworthy information to support news articles a big challenge for today's reporters.

    The enormous amount of dubious Internet information became a nightmare for reporters in late 1990's. The profession was easily damaged whenever a reporter made a mistake in taking information off the Internet. One example happened in September of 2000. Emulex accused Internet Wire and Bloomberg for using fraudulent Internet information as a source of news that led to a drop in Emulex's stock price. On the contrary, the questionable personal news web "Matt Drudge" became famous overnight by being the first to publish the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

    At the beginning, collecting information from the Internet was meant to enrich the news story. However it later became the source of many a wrong story. What's wrong with reporters using the Internet as a source of information? Is the information on the Internet reliable? And how can one make good use of Internet information? One thing is for sure, and that is that the Internet is surely a new way to gather wild resources. However, what is going to happen next?
 

2. Literature Review

In 1997,  the 'Detective'  site owned by Matt Drudge was the first to expose Bill Clinton's relationship with Monica Lewinsky. The mainstream media despised Matt Drudge and tried to ignore him at the beginning, but in the end they were forced to follow him. Ironically, Drudge always claimed that his site could only reach an accuracy level of 80%. Matt Drudge did not believe any journalist, even ones from professional organizations, could be 100% right.

In 1998, US independent prosecutorKenneth W. Starrannounced the complete investigation report of US President Coliton's scandal on the Internet. Everyone could find the entire interview record and investigation details from the report online. It instantly caught million of Internet users' attention. Lots of websites provided the original edition of the report for download and caused incredible network traffic. All of the sudden, the Internet had changed the media's role from communication to a public information channel owned by media operators, reporters and readers. To traditional reporters, the vigorous Internet does them a great service, but, in a way, it could also be an obstruction to an accurate story (Garrison, 2000). It is critical for reporters to have the capability of querying and criticizing along with reading when using the Internet as a tool for newsgathering and learning.

2.1 How reporters adopt Internet technology

The Internet was seen as an information channel at the very beginning, but now it has become just like traditional media. The advantages of the Internet include huge storage capacity, research capability, easy updating and easy connection to help users get more accurate and diversified news information. The Internet is the answer to the problem of one-way communication and the lack of diversification that plagued the old days. Right after the computerization of internal printing and editorial operation flow, the media started to develop a new platform for information delivery via Internet technologies.

For the past decade, both governmental organizations and commercial communities have started to send out information via the Internet. Different kinds of online databases and online service systems started to function. Especially since 1993, when the World Wide Web arose, all kinds of information could be searched and obtained from across the platforms. This enriched the online resources and services (Reddick and King, 1995). Online information increased tremendously as well (Garrison, 1995, 1997). Other than that, reporters were also expected to learn how to manage the information gathered from the Internet and become the early adopters of new technologies (Davenport, 1995Garrison, 1996).

Bruce Garrison did a survey from 1994 to 1996 aimed at reporters from key daily newspapers in the US. The result of the survey showed that 70% of the reporters use computers to write stories. It reached 90% two years later. According to Garrison, all reporters have to make fundamental changes to match up with the new way of newsgathering brought by new network technologies. An average of 90% of the US newspaper industry had been computerized in 1998 and 97% of newspapers collected information via various Internet services. According to Garrison, reporters have been getting used to utilizing all kinds of commercial and private databases. Over 60% of interviewed reporters are accustomed to accessing the Internet every day. Their favorites include a large number of official websites belonging to state and federal governments, census sites and sites full of various newspapers and articles archives. Reporters prefer to visit websites that offer high quality articles.

According to Garrison, the number of reporters who apply Internet technology has reached a "critical mass". The communications environment has been going through tremendous changes over the past five years. Reporters have to respond rapidly to these changes by adjusting their newsgathering methods. Compared to fax machines, telephones and typewriters in the old days, the Internet is more high-tech oriented for reporters to collect information, especially Internet databases. These have become more and more important in reporters' daily lives.

In Taiwan, the booming Internet urged traditional media to publish the news online. The government should encourage the usage of the Internet along with promotion by private corporations. It will encourage journalist to engage in communications and newsgathering via use of the Internet. Now the reporters at the key daily newspapers in Taiwan use the Internet not only for communications but also as a useful tool for collecting information.

2.2 Credibility Research

Media reliability has been at the core of communications studies since the 1970's. The focus has been on the information resources as well as the reliability of the information (Schneider and Lewis1985Izard1985American Society of Newspaper Editors1985). Despite the fact that the public had a good impression of the media at the very beginning, the good feelings started to gradually drop because the audience began to think that the media lacked creditability (Gaziano, 1988). According to research conducted by The Pew Research Center from 1985 to 1999, 38%, growing from 13%, of interviewees considered the media immoral. This number tripled in fifteen years. On the other hand, 38%, growing from 23%, of interviewees believe that the media has been hiding the truth and has monopolized public opinion. The public also considers the media unprofessional, excessively criticizing in a negative fashion and careless about common daily news. The media, which is supposed to expose the truth, has suffered from criticism over not being able to do its job well.

Starting from the 1990's, scholars again began to pay attention to media credibility research for two reasons: One is to know why people are losing their faith in media and reporters. The other is to broaden the research items with new media like cable TV and the Internet, which were not able to be analyzed in earlier research. Take the Internet for example. Being a media that provides information like traditional media, it however is not supervised or controlled by laws and regulations. This is in fact weakening the reliability of the Internet as a media.

2.2.1 Traditional Media vs. Internet Media

Johnson & Kaye initially undertook the research of reliability comparisons between Internet media and traditional media. They collected the opinions of users about political websites to see how much Internet users trust political publicity provided by politicians on the net. The outcome showed that net users who are interested in political websites trust Internet media just like what they do traditional media. They believe the Internet media is trustworthy and fair with certain in-depth reports. They also think Internet media could reach the reliability standard of being precise and detached. However, the study also pointed out that the lack of standards and regulations of the Internet will result in a challenge to its reliability.

According to Johnson and Kaye, the reliability is substantial to Internet media because people will not pay any attention to Internet media with low reliability. Although some scholars believe that the shortcomings of not being regulated and high-speed information flow will adversely affect the reliability of Internet media, they found Internet media had a certain level of creditability among users. How much attention Internet media could get and how strong the frequency of use could be is effected mostly by how users trust in it. As Gaziano quoted the Roper report in 1997, the confidence of media is dropping year by year. The reliability pays a critical role, especially when the media would like to expand towards the net. People would never pay any attention to those media that could not earn the trust of the public, no matter whether the information is from the net or traditional media. The Internet would never become the mainstream media if the audience could not trust in its information.

Spiro Kiousis arrived at a similar conclusion by replicating Johnson & Kaye's research model. His research was based on a sampling survey of the general public. He examined the residents of Austin by random sampling with the index including respect, creating benefits, valuing privacy, trustworthy and benefit to the community. The results showed that Austin residents ranked the daily newspapers with the highest creditability, after which came online news and TV.

No matter how badly the mainstream media and academics criticize the creditability of the Internet, information and all kind of online news services are welcomed by users, whose numbers are growing very fast. However, lots of side-street news and rumors are all still around on the Internet and have quickly become "news" via Internet broadcasting. News departments of mainstream media have no choice but too refer to those questionable websites.

Gaham had a series of interviews with executives from seven key media organizations in the U.S. in 1998. The summary of the interviews showed a Credibility Gap between Internet media and traditional media. The pros also gave recommendations on how to improve the reliability of online news. First of all, be careful about the verification process. Secondly, make sure the report is neutral and reliable. Lastly, always keep the accuracy of all articles published.

Sundar has proved that the readers' perception of reliability and quality of online news will be effected by where the information actually comes from, however, it would not effect readers'  personal favorites and the judgments upon news value. News or information without an indication of where it comes from still could be forwarded by readers because the information might be funny, entertaining or even be seen as important. It is very easy to forward messages on the Internet, which means that any rumor could easily become Internet news at any time.

2.2.2 Index for credibility measurement

    Westley & Severin tried to analyze the different level of news credibility based on varied media characteristics. One thing important is to understand how the limitation of media usage effects the way they evaluate news credibility. No matter what kind of media has been used, people almost always share the same general idea of news credibility. Their research showed that users will judge the creditability of the news released by media according to their own criteria such as the understanding of the news source, established perception, bias or first-sight impressions, etc. Users will judge news credibility by whether the messages being presented completely and if the background information or supplementary are enough. But only part of the research could be replicated to the study of Internet reliability research. The information released from newsgroups or BBS online is usually seen as less trustworthy then the website information. According to Franke's research in 1996, the discussions on the Internet are usually too brief and unorganized to become dialogue with well-established structure, not to mention being able to help users make correct decisions.

    How to measure news credibility? news credibility scale conducted by Gaziano & MaGrath is the most popular tool so far. Meyer also claimed that the chart is indeed able to precisely examine communications capability and believes that they are two very important characteristics in news reliability. Trust, accuracy, bias and depth/completeness are the four key elements to identify news credibility. Some academics share the same viewpoints as Gaziano and McGrath (Gaziano and McGrath, 1986Newhagen and Nass, 1989). Meyer sets five indexes to identify news credibility in his research. They are fair/unfair, biased/unbiased, accurate/inaccurate, can be trusted/can't be trusted, and tells the whole story/doesn't tell the whole story. West tried to consolidate the all the research done by the academics and make a comparison. He thought that Gaziano & McGrath's chart could evaluate more than one factor in credibility. On the other hand, Rimmer & Weaver also got trustworthy figures from the test based on Gaziano & McGrath's index. Although media credibility is only a concept, it can still be measured by a set of indexes or a series of different sub-variables compound. It also depends on how we combine the factors or indexes.

2.3. How Internet information affects the journalism profession

    Given that the whole communications environment is undergoing tremendous changes, News business still has responsibility for what it says to the general public. However, do they still maintain professional standards? Or have they automatically adjusted the standards because of the transformation of communication methods? It needs more in-depth discussion of whether the media organization and the professional news value represented by reporters have been effected by the characteristics of new medias.

2.3.1 Positive/Negative effects brought by adopting Internet resources

    During the late 1990's, news media applied Internet technology to broader areas. Aside from the commercial services including news database and message broadcasting done by news organization, the Internet also became a very important channel for reporters to collect information (Callahan1997Garrison1998Kaye and Medoff1999Reddick and King1997Ross and Middleberg1997)). reporters become more and more powerful by using hi-tech Internet tools (Semonche, 1983).

    Some research started to take notice of how the diversified online services and gathering information on the Internet affect reporters' work. This includes receiving information, searching for interviewees, arranging interviews, sourcing overdue magazines or news clippings, researching interviewee backgrounds, and communicating with the same trade interacting with readers (Garrison, 1996Garrison, 1998Miller, 1998)

    What has been the advantage to the Internet could turn out to be the deadly weakness in the end. The anonymous characteristic, for example, is a critical issue (Singer, 1996). Whether the information is accurate and provable is seen as an important factor when reporters are reviewing a news resource (Lasica, 1997Reddick and King, 1997). According to some academics, a lot of on-line information is facing the challenge of how to become confirmable and provable. As a matter fact, given the diversified information available on the Internet, reporters should be more cautious about picking up information then ever, trying not to damage the profession. Reporter might be misled by the information released by competitors or corporate PR Dep. when they are using online resources like newsgroups. Reporters need to sift information more carefully (Garrison, 1998 winter). The easy-to-reach characteristic of online information has already become a challenge to the "Gate Keeper" concept of traditional Journalism standards.

3. Method

3.1Research Question

    The study aims to obtain a clearer idea of key Taiwan media reporters' usage & attitudes towards on-line information when they are using technology tools like computers and the Internet to write the article. Do they see on-line information as an important news source? What criteria do they use to judge whether the on-line information is trustworthy?

    The main questions asked are as follows:
    (1) What kind of online resources do reporters adopt?
    (2) The major activities conducted by reporters in the Internet?
    (3) Will the Internet information credibility level be higher when the usage of Internet is heavier?
    (4) Reporters' usage of the Internet.

3.2 Data Collection

    This study was conducted by questionnaire survey to find out how reporters decide whether they will go after on-line information or not and whether they trust on-line sources by interviewing the reporters selected from key daily newspapers in Taiwan. The survey also examined the way the reporters use the Internet as well as any special usage habits.

3.2.1 Sampling

    The sampling targets are reporters of the China Times Group, United Daily News Group and the Liberty Times. There are 130 reporters were interviewed by random sampling. There are 130 reporters were interviewed by random sampling. (From Feb. 12 to Feb. 23).

4.Key findings

    Among the 130 reporters interviewed, 72 are male reporters, which is 55.4%; 58, or 44.6%, are female. 46.2% of the reporters hold undergraduate qualification, whereas 43.1% of the reporters are graduates. The average age is 34.6 years.

4.1 What kind of online resources do reporters adopt?

    "Sourcing reference materials and related information for news"  had the highest proportion (53.8%) of the available information on the Internet.   50% of the interviewed reporters will source information other than news reports on the Internet.
 
 
Never  Rarely   Sometimes   Often   Always   No Answer
News background information and related stories

Reference information beyond news stories

Opinions from reliable information sources

Commercial research reports and figures

Governmental research and official reports

More source materials for news writing

others

  .0%      3.1%     42.3%         41.5%   12.3%     .8%
 
 

   .0%     5.4%     44.6%         43.1%     6.9%      .0%
 

  1.5%   24.6%    60.0%         12.3%     1.5%       .0%
 

  3.1%   16.9%    50.8%         27.7%      1.5%      .0%
 

    .8%   12.3%    42.3%         36.9%      7.7%      .0%
 

  1.5%     9.2%    45.4%          35.4%     8.5%      .0%
 

    .0%       .0%        .8%              .0%       .0%   99.2%

Table 1: Types of resources available on the Internet

4.2 The major activities conducted by reporters on the Internet

    The major activities conducted by reporters on the Internet are email (72.3%) and looking for information via search engines (65.4%). 64.6% of reporters peruse news and magazines on the Internet. Some reporters will access public information (46.2%) or follow news leads (30.7%). News portals (83.8%) and search engine sites (57.7%) remain the most visited websites by reporters in the survey, indicating that Taiwan reporters are quite aggressive in necessary Internet activities to fulfill the needs of their work.
 
Never   Rarely   Sometimes   Often   Always   No Answer
Search engine

News and magazines browsing

Hot topics and activities searching

Leisure information browsing

Internet instant messaging

online gaming

Chatting

Email

Download Files

In contact with interviewees

News materials gathering

Public information gathering

Others

   .0%     5.4%        28.5%     47.7%  17.7%       .8%

 1.5%     7.7%        26.2%     46.9%  17.7%       .0%
 

   .8%   19.2%        50.8%     21.5%    6.9%        .8%
 

  3.1%  23.1%        48.5%    18.5%     3.8%       3.1%
 

 39.2% 32.3%        16.2%      6.2%     3.1%       3.1%
 

 54.6% 26.2%        13.8%       3.8%      .0%        1.5%

 40.8% 33.1%        14.6%       7.7%      .8%         3.1%

   3.1%   5.4%        18.5%      41.5%  30.8%          .8%

   3.1% 23.1%        46.9%      20.8%    4.6%        1.5%

 13.8% 26.2%        40.8%      17.7%      .8%          .8%
 

   1.5% 16.2%        50.0%       26.9%   3.8%         1.5%
 

     .0% 14.6%        36.9%       37.7%    8.5%         2.3%
 

      .8 % .0%             .0%            .0%       .8%       98.5%

Table 2: The most popular activities conducted on the Internet

4.3 Activities conducted by email

    The survey also indicated that Taiwan reporters usually use email for personal matters (65.4%), and then for contact with colleagues (30%) and competitors (31.6%). Sometimes they use email to contact interview candidates or just hold the interview via email (34.6%). The reporters sometimes gather related information about planned interviews via the Internet (42.3%). It is believed that the proportion of email interviews and gathering reference information may increase in the future.
 
  Never   Rarely    Sometimes   Often   Always   No Answer
In contact with colleagues

In contact with competitors

Personal email

In contact with interviewees

Gathering interview information

Others

   6.2%    20.0%      43.1%       25.4%    4.6%      .8%
 

   5.4%     21.5%     40.8%       26.2%    5.4%      .8%
 

   3.8%     11.5%     18.5%       40.8%   24.6%     .8%

 18.5%     33.1%     34.6%       13.8%       .0%     .0%
 

   5.4%      23.8%    42.3%       27.7%       .8%      .0%
 
 

    .8%          .0%         .8%           .0%     1.5%   96.9%

Table 3 : Activities conducted by email
 

4.4 What kind of online information that reporters adopt?

    Reporters still tend to adopt on-line information that comes from traditional media or interpersonal relationships. They rarely pay attention to anonymous emails, rumors or messages from BBS, news groups or newsletters.
 
  Never   Rarely   Sometimes   Often   Always   No Answer
Emails and online instant messages

Anonymous emails

News portals

BBS and news groups

Competitors

Interviewee

TV, Newspaper or broadcast media

Newsletter

Others

   11.5%   26.2%    28.5%        23.8%   1.5%       8.5%
 

   31.5%   46.2%    11.5%          2.3%     .0%       8.5% 

     5.4%   12.3%    30.8%        45.4%   6.2%         .0%

   28.5%   36.2%    20.0%          6.9%     .8%       7.7%

     6.9%   20.8%    40.0%         25.4%   1.5%      5.4%

     5.4%   13.1%    27.7%         42.3%    6.2%     5.4%

     3.8%    15.4%   30.0%          41.5%    5.4%     3.8%
 

   26.9%    26.9%   20.8%          16.2%     1.5%     7.7%

      .0%         .0%       .0%            1.5%        .0%   98.5%

Table4: The types of Internet messages

4.5 Factors to judge if the Internet information is credible

    According to the research, when a message that appears to be important comes across the Internet, reporters seem to judge its creditability by traditional criteria such as specific facts including when, who, where, what and numbers (86.1%), wired news agency like Reuter (75.4%), logical argument (72.3%) and accountable reference sources (64.6%). Reporters do not notice or pay attention to on-line rumors.
 
Not very        Not        Fair     Important     Very        No 
important  important                                important Answer
Specific figures and details

Have heard about the information before

Logical thinking process

Reliable websites

Reliable information resources

Sensitive topics

Issued by famous wired news agencies

Others

   .0%            1.5%     12.3%    46.9%       39.2%     .0%

   .0%            9.2%      40.8%   40.0%         7.7%   2.3%
 

   .0%            5.4%      20.8%    55.4%      16.9%   1.5%

   .0%            6.9%      34.6%    46.9%      10.0%   1.5%

   .8%            6.9%      24.6%     46.9%     17.7%    3.1%

 3.1%          18.5%      39.2%     26.2%     10.0%    3.1%

    .8%           4.6%       19.2%    58.5%     16.9%      .0%
 

    .0%             .0%           .8%         .0%        .0%   99.2%

Table 5: The criteria used by reporters to evaluate the credibility of on-line information

    The research also shows that how much the reporters believe Internet media will not be different if they work for different newspapers. However, how much time a reporter spends on the Internet does effect whether he or she is willing to pick up on-line information. The more a reporter uses the Internet, the more he considers on-line information an important news source and will keep doing so in the future.

    But the survey showed that 14.6% of the reporters never or hardly perceive on-line information as important news sources. 53.8% of the reporters sometimes consider on-line information as an important news source. 28.4% of the reporters usually or always consider on-line information important.When they were asked whether or not on-line information will become an important source to reporters in the future, 56.9% of the interviewees expressed agreement and 22.3% of interviewees were quite positive.

    The uncertainty of on-line information is so high that reporters normally feel uncomfortable using it. A lot of academics have shown concern for the anarchy and anonymity of the Internet which allow information to be easily posted on-line by any individual and then be forwarded to others without thorough verification. According to the survey, reporters still judge the messages, which may appear to be important by traditional standards such as who, when, what, where and clear figures. Whether the site is accountable and always identifies the reference sources is also critical.

4.6 Reporters' reactions and actions taken towards online information

    What reactions do the reporters have when confronting uncertain on-line information? In the survey, 45.4% of interviewees usually try to verify the information, but 57.5% of the reporters consider the anonymous on-line information as rumors. On-line information with complete reference sources earns reporters' trust much more easily. Most of the reporters had very low confidence in anonymous information. This finding has somehow proved the viewpoint indicated by academic papers.
 
Never   Rarely   Sometimes   Often   Always   No Answer
Prove online information all the time

Consider online information as news sources

Believe in online information and try to prove it

Consider anonymous information as rumor

Always can find the person involved to confirm the unsure online information

Tend to believe the online information with complete identification of sources

  2.3%    14.6%     36.9%      34.6%    10.8%       .8%
 

  6.2%     26.2%     57.7%     10.0%        .0%        .0%
 

  1.5%     25.4%     56.2%     13.8%      1.5%      1.5% 
 

    .0%     10.0%     30.0%     46.2%     11.5%      2.3%
 

 10.0%    30.0%     39.2%     13.8%      3.8%       3.1%

 

    .0%       6.2%     37.7%      42.3%    12.3%       1.5%

Table 6: Reporters'  reactions and actions taken towards on-line information

4.7 Reporters' usage of PC and the Internet

    Reporters in Taiwan usually use the Internet as a tool to access information. 95.4% of the reporters go online at least once a day. 38.4% of the reporters have at least two email accounts. 28.4% of Internet users consider on-line information important news sources. Most of the reporters' news leads come from interpersonal relations such as the information provided by certain interviewees or reporters of other publications, or even the news posted on the news portals. It is still difficult for reporters to buy into on-line information without reference sources. Still reporters tend to use traditional criteria to make judgments on on-line information, such as detailed figures and reference sources.

    56.2% of interviewed reporters spend 0 to 5 hours using computers. 40% use computers for six to ten hours. 40% of interviewees have two to four years of experience using the Internet. The ratio of those who have used computers for four to six years is 30.8% and for six to eight years, 19.2%. The ratio of reporters who have used the Internet over eight years (18%) is even higher than the ones who have less than two years of Internet experience (16%). 95.4% of the reporters access the Internet at least once a day. They normally access the Internet at the office (69.2%) and at home (60%). Thanks to an increasing Notebook penetration, 60% of the interviewees get on line at interviews.

4.8 Other findings

News beat reporters had no profound impact on evaluating on-line information as important sources of Information.

5. Conclusion

    The research was the first to investigate Taiwan daily reporters' usage of the Internet information toward the Internet. The results showed that 99.2% of reporters are using computers to access the Internet with the purpose of communication and newsgathering (79.2%) or to write stories (96.9%). All the interviewed reporters have experience of using the Internet. 40% of them have used the Internet for two to four years. 30.8% of them have four to six years of Internet experience. 95.4% of interviewee access the Internet at least once a day. Reporters normally use email for personal matters (65.4%) and communication with colleagues and competitors. On the other hand, reporters rarely contact interviewees or hold interviews by email.

    What kind of information can a reporter really get from the Internet? Official reports, research reports with figures, background information or references to certain news targets are the most popular resources reporters can access on the Internet, as shown by the research. Reporters normally use search engines (65.4%), read news (64.6%) and correspond with others (72.3%). They mostly visit news portals (83.8%) and search engines (57.7%).

    First of all, let's spend some time on the limitations of research methodology. The sampling targets of this research are reporters at three dailies in Taiwan. The results may show some reporters' perspectives on the Internet,  but still couldn't totally represent the opinions of reporters from different types of media in Taiwan. Particularly after the establishment of many new media as the "media of future", there are essential differences from traditional media rooted in the regular interview process, writing and their particular printing process. As a result, the perspectives of the reporters working for Internet media are also important to the research as a contrast group. It can benefit the evaluation of how reporters deal with on-line information.

    Other than that, it may not be objective enough to only have print media reporters' viewpoint on Internet media because their current position as a journalist at a traditional publication could affect their trust of Internet media. When a big newspaper publication group is establishing a news portal, it will normally directly transform the contents from its printed publication to the web. Generally, reporters tend to trust these portal sites and the information published more then the primitive website, because they usually doubt the information originating on the net. However, some specialized data or technical information is only available on the Internet. Take the IT beat for example: a lot of new technology concepts and products are rooted in Internet technologies. There is no other way besides the Internet that can help audiences obtain complete information on these products. The Linux system is a good example. Linux is being presented to the public only because the inventors published the source code on the Internet, after which countless followers have kept giving feedback on it and modifying it. For the time being, Linux is still under development. Reporters have to or probably can only access the most recently updated works-in-progress or related information about Linux by using the Internet. It really requires long-term observation and study to better understand how to verify the information on the Internet and how to really let it be useful to reporters.

    How to verify or analyze on-line information becomes even more important when the Internet services and on-line information have been generally applied to news stories. It is indeed critical how we can ensure the credibility of information coming across the Internet.

    According to the research, reliable reference sources will contribute to enhancing creditability. However, at this moment, on-line information is so complex that it sometimes goes beyond the audience's imagination and experience. It is really difficult for reporters to make appropriate judgment towards on-line information only relying on their own life experiences. Although the results of survey show that current criteria may be a practical way of evaluating on-line information, there is still room for new standards of measurement in today's Net world to avoid any lapses caused by the old evaluation standards. We certainly do not want to hold back the new media's elaboration with the old values either. Developing credible evaluation criteria requires patience and experience. However, most of the time, reporters do not really try their very best to realize the nature of Internet resources. What is even worse is that reporters also easily consider the Internet as a key information resource and take the information without reasonable doubt as soon as they have had a certain amount of Internet experience. Given that the study presented here has tried to set as many evaluation criteria as possible for reporters, there is still a long road ahead for new ideas and thinking.

    How to identify on-line information is also a popular issue among reporters in the States. "Education" is probably a practical answer to the issue. In the U.S., more and more experienced professionals are conducting educational programs to instruct reporters in using the Internet as a medium. In today's Taiwan, the effects as well as the benefits that come with new technologies have not been well received. Students are still being taught traditional ways of newsgathering and old manners of judgment. It is not enough if we only identify good sites and poor ones for quasi-reporter. It is very difficult, even for experienced professors, to have an overall understanding on the effects of IT on audiences, reporters and even the media itself, especially when they probably only have a very limited experience with the Internet as well as new technologies. Experience shows us how easily normal people get confused by new technologies, and even professionals get confused sometimes as well. The researchers should seriously observe the negative influence or potential damage that comes with booming Internet development rather than just focus on the benefits contributed by it.

    Most of the reporters in Taiwan probably only first notice the advantages of the Internet such as the search function. However, what looks good in the beginning will probably lead to disaster eventually. Very few reporters are capable or experienced enough to identify good as well as correct resources on the net. Most of them just have learned how to use search engines or access particular sites recommended by others to find information. Given that Internet applications are a must, communication academics should seriously train students with aggressive and positive attitudes towards the Internet and then further help them to proactively screen and recognize correct information on the net instead of just accepting information at face value. It is neither an easy thing to do nor a normal goal to achieve.