We are excited reading the review that the influential journal New Media & Society has devoted to Making Online News in their August 2009 issue. Sue Robinson (U Wisconsin-Madison) is the author of a very positive critique of the book, that praises its “global perspective” and “nuanced analyses” thanks to “the authors’ rejection of any deterministic perspective”.
Robinson suggests two weaknesses of the book, acknowledging at the same time that the book “provides a solid platform” for further research in online journalism. She notes that many of the chapters are based on ethnographies conducted before 2003. Ethnography is a method that does not provide quick results, and often an author’s best analysis of their ethnographic research comes years after they gather data. In the book, evidence from the case studies is relevant beyond its temporal time frame, as it shows that innovation processes and professionals’ attitudes are prone to reproduce existing practices than create new ones. And in the long run, the value of Making Online News will be documenting a historical period that was critical in the definition of journalism on the Internet (1998-2007).
The author of the review also warns that “some more stringent practitioners of ethnography would take issue with the liberal employ of the term”. We agree. In the introduction to the book we observe that the definitions of “ethnography” are very fluid, and that some of the research in the book is not classically ethnographic. We feel it is a strength of the book to portray the reality of this method through the diverse strategies of the chapter authors. At the time the book was assembled there were few ethnographic projects on online newsrooms meeting more stringent definitions of the method and they are represented in the book. We feel the diversity of approaches is a contribution to the methodological discussion on the future of ethnography.