A "safe, unconfusing environment"

Marketing professionals often speak of the importance of a "brand." In journalism, this term describes a news organization that presents news in a reliable, consistent manner. Readers, viewers, and Web site users return to familiar news sources because they understand what they are getting and how to find the information they need. "Users get very impatient if they don't have a direct route to what they seek," said a Web site programmer. "Our users look to us for a safe, un-confusing environment." 1

These responses give us some understanding of what readers value in journalism. Readers want journalists to scrutinize available information, present the most important information, explain why it is important, and present it in an easy-to-use format. These four tasks do not seem to be controversial. However, we will see in the next two sections that the way journalists perform these tasks and the way readers view them are changing rapidly.