The War on the Web

Whether mainstream journalists can get to the news or not, Vaidhyanathan says there's always a person on the ground with a camera or a computer to let the world know what's happening.

It's also a way for the public to fire back and interact with the events going on around them.

On ABC News Now's new show "Seen & Be Heard," viewers can submit questions and interact with the show's hosts, which the network hopes will get the audience more involved.

"It gives the viewer a chance to not be passive," said Owen Renfro, the show's senior producer. "It also opens up a two-way channel between the viewer and the correspondents ."

But the opportunity to offer information from the ground is also hindered by a lack of accountability.

When The New York Times makes a mistake, there are more than enough critics to ensure that the newspaper takes action against the offenders and reworks its policies to ensure more accuracy.

When an anonymous blogger espouses his view of a situation from the ground, or posts a piece of video, there's no one to hold accountable and therefore no way to ensure that what's being viewed is accurate or fair.

Information Everywhere

The video presented by msoubra isn't particularly exciting and is certainly less graphic in depicting the violence in Beirut than many of the videos and images found in cyberspace, yet it's attracted many viewers.

"People understand that the video that they're watching hasn't been filtered or edited by a news organization," said Barb Palser, new media columnist for the American Journalism review.

"Obviously the creator of that content has their own biases and sensibilities and point of view, but there is something very exciting about seeing raw video from a person who is in the center of the action," Palser said.

While traditional news outlets offer a more refined experience for information seekers, the Internet has a raw quality that can be both thrilling and overwhelming.

"There's a lot of fantastic information out there, but it's too much. It's a fire hose," Palser said. "It can be a relief and a grounding experience to then be able to go and look at something that's a little more organized and more edited."

That's assuming people seek out information beyond their local newspaper, nightly news, or the occasional stop at a 24-hour news network.

"There's been an explosion of options to get information, but in the end I think people are going to spend the amount of time they're going to spend seeking out information and that's it," Cunningham said. "The stuff is out there if they want to go get it, but making them want it is something I don't think journalism can do anything about."

Though they can't motivate people to turn from their computers to their TV screen, with Web surfers increasingly getting information from citizen journalists, Palser warns that the rawness of the Internet needs to be tempered with wisdom.

"Like it or not, this is happening -- you can't reel citizen journalism back in," Palser said. "So I hope over time our audiences are able to apply their own scrutiny and their own filters and sensibilities to the information they find on the Web."

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