Everyone is concerned with information accuracy. In online journalism, however, information accuracy is an even more prominent worry. Online journalism consists of news-related websites posted by organizations, such as the Wall Street Journal, or by individuals, like Matt Drudge. Unlike its print and broadcast brethren, online journalism knows no press time. As a result, the push is to distribute stories as soon as possible, sometimes before double-checking sources. Individual web journalists often do not even have the resources to check sources. If you were responsible for a news-related website, how would you balance information accuracy with the pressure to publish first? As a viewer, would you have the same faith in online journalism that you have in print or broadcast journalism? Why or why not?
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Imagine that while surfing the web, you come across an interesting site. The headline invites you to take a minute to enroll. In return for your time, the website indicates you will receive a lifetime of savings. You type your name, email address, home address, and telephone number. As soon as you click the Submit button, the information is whisked away, where it is added to a huge database. Within seconds, the information is traveling via high-speed networks halfway around the world. The company now has your personal information and can sell your name, address, and telephone number to dozens of marketing firms, without your knowledge or consent. Should a company have the option to sell personal information? Why or why not? Some Web sites post privacy statements and a TRUSTe seal. Would you feel confident providing your information at one of these sites? Why?
For many students, the cost of college is even more depressing than the quality of on-campus dining. A free web service can ease the money crunch by helping students find scholarships that match their qualifications, plans, and chosen schools. When a student registers, the service queries a database of more than 180,000 records in search of suitable scholarships and then returns the results. Ironically, those least likely to benefit from the scholarship search may be those who need it most. Because students from poorer backgrounds usually have less computer experience, they may be unaware of, or unable to access, the scholarship search service. How can the web service be made more universally available? Who should assume the leading role in extending access to the service? Why?
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