Adoption of information technology by Greek journalists
First Monday

Adoption of information technology by Greek journalists: A case study by Andreas Veglis, George Tsourvakas, Andreas Pomportsis, and Evagelia Avraam

Abstract
The information age has created many challenges for every profession. In the case of journalism the introduction of information technology has altered considerably various aspects of the profession. Today various computerized sources are regularly being used in media organizations. This paper investigates the adoption of information technology by Greek journalists. The study focuses on journalists working in local newspapers.

Contents

Introduction
Literature overview
Technology diffusion
Research
Discussion of the findings
Conclusions


 

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Introduction

The advent of new information and communication technologies has brought forth a set of opportunities and challenges for traditional media professions, such as journalism (DeFleur, 1997; Huesca, 2000; Garrison, 1996). Much of the world’s information is becoming computerized. This challenging new context includes new technologies to basic communication processes such as human perception, cognition, and expression (Bolter and Crusin, 1999; De Kerckhove, 1995; Houston, 1999; Garrison, 1998; Turkle, 1995).

The explosion in new media forms has grabbed the attention of communication scholars in the latter half of the 1990s. The number of studies is burgeoning, and new ones appear at a steadily accelerating pace (Singer, 1998). The focus has been primarily on the audience for computer–based media forms, particularly on the uses and effects of these new media (Lievrouw and Livingstone, 2002; Garrison, 1998; Garrison, 2000). With the boost of users looking for information in new places, the mass media industry, in general, seems to have moved to keep their audience’s attention by increasingly going online to offer news and information. The audience seems divided between a segment who want headlines and useful information bits and a fraction who want in–depth data documents and in–context reports (Kenney, et al., 2000). Another qualitative aspect is the unique possibility of the Internet to supply links to story sources (Deuze, 1998).

Reporters’ and editors’ use of the Internet to search stories, find new sources, receive press releases and information, update breaking news, interview sources and engage in dialogue with readers has reached record levels (Deuze, 2001). A national survey in the U,S. of media use showed a huge gain in audience use of the Internet from 1995 to 1999, while there was a decline for both local and network television news and for newspapers (Stempel, 2000). The more experience users have with the Internet, the more often they go online. Fifty percent of users who have four years or more of online experience go online five or more times a day, which is more often than Internet newcomers (Schiff, 2003). Garrison found that since 1999 almost 90 percent of U.S. daily newspapers were actively using new online technologies to search for articles and most of them also boasted their own news Web sites to reach new markets (Garrison, 2001). Middleberg and Ross (2001) have chronicled journalists’ use of the Internet for the past 10 years. These surveys have been the largest to explore the symbiotic relationship between the media and the Internet. Their findings indicate that journalists’ use of the Internet is increasing. In the United Kingdom, a recent study reported that all major national newspapers currently provide online versions of some type (Stanyer, 2001). Similarly in Greece a recent survey found that all major newspapers are providing a Web version of their editions (Spyridou and Veglis, 2003).

However, as the journalists’ use of the Internet increases, concerns among practitioners are being heard. In a longitudinal study of journalists conducted from 1994 to 1998, concern was voiced by respondents about verifying facts of online sources, sites containing unreliable information, lack of source credibility, and badly sourced information (Garrison, 2000). The same study also found a need for newsroom training on online research skills.

It is obvious that the adoption of information technology is an important parameter in journalism. But in order for journalists to be able to use information technology they must possess some basic computer skills. This paper investigates the adoption of information technology by Greek journalists. The study focused on journalists employed in local newspapers.

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Literature overview

Research in academic journals and discussion in professional publications on computer–assisted reporting in the newsroom was enthusiastic in the late 1980s and early 1990s (Davenport, et al., 2002). But with the wide acceptance of the Web, research on gathering news electronically was limited after 1994 (Davenport, et al., 2002). Garrison continued to survey U.S. newspapers regularly on their use of computers (Garrison, 1996). The results of Garrison’s studies, that took place from 1994 to 1999, found that interactive information–gathering techniques in newsrooms has reached a critical mass for online research, non–specialist content searching and daily frequency on online use (Garrison, 2000). These results were also confirmed by the two computer–assisted reporting longitudinal diffusion studies in 1994 and 2000, that were conducted by Davenport, et al. (Davenport, et al., 1996; Davenport, et al., 2000). Davenport, et al. found that almost all state dailies in 2000 used one or more computerized sources in order to obtain information for news stories. Most journalists used the Internet, compact discs and public records in order to extract information.

Middleberg and Ross (2001) have surveyed journalists’ use of the Internet for more than a decade. Their study offers the most comprehensive representation of media outlets to date. Based on their findings, it is clear that journalists are using the Internet more than ever, and that things are changing so rapidly now that the typical newsroom has far more Internet connections than phone lines.

There has not been an abundance of information on the use of computers and the Internet by Greek journalists. Kostas Pliakos (2002) surveyed the use of the Internet by Greek media in 2002. His survey included journalists working in national newspapers. His findings indicate a moderate use of the Internet by Greek journalists. Forty percent of Greek journalists believe that they lack appropriate computer knowledge and that media companies do not invest sufficiently in information technology (Pliakos, 2002).

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Technology diffusion

Diffusion of innovation, a theory applied most directly to communication studies by Rogers (Rogers, 1995; Rogers and Shoemaker, 1971), is the acknowledged starting place for studies attempting to describe implementation and use of new technology. In their original conceptualization, Rogers and Shoemaker (1971) defined adoption behavior as the relationship between the time at which individuals choose to adopt a technological innovation and the time at which other members of their social system do so. Rogers noted that diffusion of an innovation may not always be univariate and unchanging. Very often, innovations go through a process of re–invention in which the innovation is changed or modified by a user in the process of its adoption and implementation (Charters and Pellegrin, 1972).

Diffusion theory models the dynamics of technology adoptions, including the rate of adoption and the eventual spread of innovation in a social system (Lievrouw and Livingstone, 2002). A new technology (or other innovation) is introduced in a social group (community, organization, nation, market, industry), often by a change agent with an interest in promoting it (private firm, public agency or influential individual). Typically a few actors are the first or early adopters; the success of the innovation often depends on their social status or influence. Other members of the group, who are either directly acquainted with, or share similar interests with the early adopters, may be persuaded to adopt the innovation, and they in turn influence others. Successive waves of adoption continue until the innovation reaches a saturation point or ceiling that varies depending on the characteristics of the innovation and the social system. Important concepts in diffusion include the adoption threshold, the number of adopters necessary to induce one more actor to adopt an innovation (Valente, 1995), and critical mass, the point at which enough actors have adopted an innovation for it to succeed, based on the rate or momentum of adoption (Allen, 1983; Mahler and Rogers, 1999; Markus, 1987; Rogers, 1995).

The pattern by which an innovation spreads through a social system has been well documented and follows a classic S–shaped curve of adoption over time (Davenport, et al., 2002). Five distinct categories of adopters and also the approximate percentage of individuals included in each category have been described, based on the degree of their “innovativeness”. These categories are: Innovators (2.5 percent), Early Adopters (13.5 percent), Early Majority (34 percent), Late Majority (34 percent) and Laggards (16 percent). These classifications can be used to understand the process by which information technology has become part of the journalistic profession (Rogers, 1995).

According to Rogers’ diffusion of innovation theory (Rogers, 1995; Li, 2003), three sets of variables, technology ownership, adopters’ characteristics, and innovation attributes, have enduring impacts on the adoption of new technologies. In our study we take the two first sets of variables into consideration in order to examine the adoption of information technology by journalists employed in Greek local newspapers.

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Research

The 2002 survey of computer and Internet use by Greek journalists included only major national newspapers (Pliakos, 2002). The present study surveyed journalists working in Greek local newspapers by investigating the following research questions:

RQ1: What is the attitude of Greek journalists towards information technology?
RQ2: How do Greek journalists evaluate their computer knowledge?
RQ3: How do Greek journalists use the Internet?

Methodology

To conduct the study, a descriptive survey design was utilized. A survey consisting of 13 items was constructed. Items consisted of dichotomous choice items to assess use factors and demographics, combined with a set of five–point scales to assess perceptions of usefulness of specific aspects of information technology as used by Greek journalists. We analyzed the data with the help of SPSS 11.5.

Results

We mailed a questionnaire to 142 journalists. The Greek association for local daily newspapers provided us with the necessary data. The survey was conducted from February until the end of August 2003. We received 93 responses (65.5 percent).

More male respondents participated in the survey than female respondents (53.8 percent vs. 46.2 percent). Another element that the research revealed is that the journalists working in local newspapers are young; 38.7 percent of the journalists were between 20 and 29 year old and 46 percent were between 30 and 39 years old. Only 11.8 percent of the journalists were between 40 and 49 years old and finally 3.2 percent of them were from 50 to 59 years old (see Figure 1). The distribution of gender and age reflect the characteristics of the journalists working in Greek local newspapers.

figure1.giffigure1a.gif
Figure 1: The demographic distribution of effective respondents.

Only 28.3 percent of them had a university degree and less than 2.2 percent had any postgraduate title. As a consequence most of them have graduated from secondary schools and 17.4 percent have graduated from technical schools. The first important result was that the majority of journalists working in local newspapers have a low educational level.

RQ1: What is the attitude of Greek journalists towards information technology?

In order to assess how journalists feel about working with computers, responders were asked if they used a computer and also to rate their attitude towards computers. A high percentage of 92.5 percent claimed to use a computer. The majority of them (72 percent) said that they enjoyed using a computer. This strong acceptance of computer use was also found in the Middleberg and Ross (2001) survey, where journalists appeared to enjoy using new technologies (4.0 on a scale of 1 to 5). Based on these findings we can say there is a high diffusion of information technology in the journalistic profession in Greece. Also journalists (7.5 percent) that do not use a computer can be characterized as Laggards.

All journalists agreed that computer knowledge is a necessity in the area of journalism. This result is similar to that found in the Middleberg and Ross survey (2001), according to which journalists who ignore the Internet will not be competitive in the future (3.9 on a scale of 1 to 5). Based on these findings, it can be argued that Greek journalists are aware of the importance of information technology in their profession.

RQ2: How do Greek journalists evaluate their computer knowledge?

To achieve this objective, responders were asked to rate their computer knowledge. Only 6.5 percent of the responders admitted that their knowledge is inadequate; 20.4 percent characterized their knowledge as very good and 38.7 percent as good. The rest of them (34.4 percent) admitted average computer knowledge. We can conclude that 40 percent of the journalists believe that they have average or inadequate computer knowledge. This result is similar to Pliakos’ survey in which 41 percent of journalists working in national newspapers believe that they need training in information technology (Pliakos, 2002).

With the rapid development of information technology it is surprising that only 6.5 percent of the journalists believed that their computer knowledge is inadequate. This result deserves further investigation. There may be one explanation for this result. Most of small newspapers in Greece do not employ state–of–the–art information technologies (E–business Forum, 2003). A future extension of this work may include an in–depth analysis of information technologies employed by Greek newspapers.

RQ3: How do Greek journalists use the Internet?

The majority (92.5 percent) of journalists reported that they have access to a computer with an Internet connection. This percentage is exactly the same with the percentage of journalists that use a computer. In other words, all journalists that use a computer can also access the Internet. The persentage of journalists that have access to the internet is aproximatelly the same with the persentage found in Pliakos’ survey (Pliakos, 2002). In addition, a national survey found that all Greek newspapers are connected to the Internet (E–business Forum, 2003).

Next we examined the Internet services that journalists use. Responders were asked to rate three Internet services, namely the World Wide Web, electronic mail (e–mail) and FTP (File Transfer Protocol), according to their popularity. As expected, the most popular service was the Web; 66 percent of the journalists surveyed noted they are acquainted with this service. E–mail exhibited slightly smaller percentages. Surprisingly most of the responders said that they were not acquainted with FTP. Many Internet users employ FTP without realizing it since FTP is often integrated in Web browsers.

The majority of the journalists (66.6 percent) said that they used the Internet in their work. These journalists can be characterized as innovators, early adopters and early majority. Only a small percentage of the journalists (5.4 percent) admitted that they do not use the Internet at all. It is worth noting that even though the majority (92.5 percent) of the journalists admitted to have Internet access, the percentage of the journalists that actually use it in their work is much lower (almost 30 percent lower). We can conclude that there is a moderate diffusion of Internet use among Greek journalists.

Again if we compare these findings with the results of Pliakos’ (2002) survey, we see that the results are quite close (use of Internet in their work: very much & much 64 percent; a little 20 percent; very little 6 percent; and, no 10 percent). We may conclude that no technology gap appears to exist between local and national newspapers as far as Internet use is concerned. Of course, other parameters must be taken into account, for example the ratio between the number of journalists and the number of computers with Internet connectivity. Some indications about the information infrastructure of local newspapers were presented in a recent survey (E–business Forum, 2003), but the results were incomplete.

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Discussion of the findings

The literature shows that technology adopters are more upscale than non–adopters for the following reasons: i) education enables individuals to be more aware of technology’s benefits; and, ii) being young makes people more adventuresome (Li, 2003). Our study found that demographic variables had significant effects on the adoption of information technology. Table 1 includes all the means and the standard deviations of the computer and Internet use regarding age. It is obvious that younger journalists admit higher computer and internet use. In some cases the 40–50 data set appears to have higher means that the 30–40 data set but N is quite small. We have the same situation in 50–60 data set where N is limited to two.

Age
N
Mean
Standard deviation
20–30
Computer use
36
1
0.000
Internet use
34
3.09
0.793
Web
34
3.41
0.821
e–mail
34
3.29
0.906
FTP
34
2.06
1.127
 
30–40
Computer use
43
0.86
0.351
Internet use
39
2.64
1.112
Web
39
2.79
1.031
e–mail
39
2.77
1.111
FTP
39
1.85
1.089
 
40–50
Computer use
11
0.91
0.302
Internet use
8
3
1.069
Web
8
2.75
1.035
e–mail
8
2.50
0.926
FTP
8
1.5
0.535
 
50–60
Computer use
3
1
0.000
Internet use
2
2.5
0.707
Web
2
1.5
0.707
e–mail
2
2
1.414
FTP
2
-
-

Table 1: Age and computer/Internet use variables.

Next in Table 2 we include the means and the standard deviations of the computer and Internet use relative to education level. Here the results appear to fully comply with Roger’s diffusion theory. Computer and Internet use grows proportional with educational level. We must note that journalists that possess a degree from a technical university appear to have higher computer and Internet use than journalists with a university degree. That result was expected since technical universities in Greece have more courses related to informatics than most of other university departments.

Education
N
Mean
Standard deviation
High school
Computer use
48
0.88
0.334
Internet use
47
2.55
1.059
Web
47
2.70
1.020
e–mail
47
2.57
1.037
FTP
44
1.70
1.025
 
Technical university
Computer use
16
1.00
0.000
Internet use
15
3.27
0.799
Web
16
3.25
0.856
e–mail
16
3.00
1.033
FTP
13
1.92
1.115
 
University degree
Computer use
26
0.96
0.196
Internet use
26
3.04
0.824
Web
25
3.12
1.054
e–mail
26
3.15
0.967
FTP
24
2.21
1.103
 
Postgraduate diploma
Computer use
2
1.00
0.000
Internet use
2
3.50
0.707
Web
2
3.50
0.707
e–mail
2
4.00
0.000
FTP
2
1.50
0.707

Table 2: Education and computer/Internet use variables.

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Conclusions

Today most of the world’s information is electronically stored. Journalists need to be intimately familiar with digital environments, including finding, accessing, retrieving, organizing and communicating computerized information. The Internet will certainly not replace journalism and the media, but provide a new channel of communication in parallel to more traditional print forms (Giussani, 1997).

The findings of this study indicate that information technology is being employed quite extensively by Greek local newspapers. Most of the findings support the predictions of Rogers’ diffusion theory. But in the case of Internet services the picture is not so rosy. The wealth of information offered by the use of the Internet remains unexploited by a significant number of Greek journalists. The exploitation of Internet services is quite extensive in the U.S., where journalists employ a variety of sources in their work (Middleberg and Ross, 2001). Future studies must undoubtedly investigate in more detail the use of various Internet services by Greek journalists. Also we must take into account the fact that future journalists (currently students in universities) are expected to be well–educated in subjects related to information technologies. A recent survey (Veglis, 2002) indicates that Greek university departments that focus on media studies include numerous courses on the use of information technologies. Journalism departments in universities, training organizations and various schools for journalism in Europe are investing heavily in training programs in computer–assisted reporting (CAR), using the Internet as a reporting tool (Bierhoff, et al., 2000).

Another significant problem is the lack of training for Greek journalists in new technologies. Middleberg and Ross (2001) reported that most journalists in the U.S. have developed adequate skills – skills that are good enough to muddle through. Thanks to a lack of training, and to an abundance of competitive pressures, journalists seem blind to many of the ethical issues and to the dangers that professional use of the Internet presents. They repeat rumors that originate online and are increasingly willing to use e–mail for interviewd (Middleberg and Ross, 2001). Research at the BBC in Great Britain revealed the unrest new media technologies have created in the newsroom. Journalists reported a lack of time to adequately use and master technologies, feeling stressed because of the immediate nature of the Internet (Cottle, 1999).

A recent survey revealed that 47.6 percent of Greek newspapers have offered some kind of training on the use of new technologies to their journalists (E–business Forum, 2003). Casual training cannot substitute for in–depth knowledge about the Internet – and what the Internet is becoming. This problem may also related to the fact that only a small percentage of journalists in local newspapers hold a university degree, not to mention a degree in journalism. Journalism has only been introduced into Greek higher education within the past decade (Veglis, 2002).

Obviously certain actions must be taken in order for journalists to improve their computer skills. This year the Ministry of Education is expected to introduce lifelong education institutes in every Greek university. Thus university departments will be able to offer courses for professionals in various areas. A suitable program aiming to improve the qualifications of journalists (with or without a university degree), could be offered by journalism departments. We must also note that in the coming years more people with a university degree on journalism will be working in Greek news organizations, and thus the level of technology use will be further improved. End of article

 

About the authors

Andreas A. Veglis is an associate professor in the Computer Lab of the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. His research interests include distributed publishing systems, Web applications, and information technology in journalism.
Web: http://pacific.jour.auth.gr/veglis/
E–mail: veglis [at] jour [dot] auth [dot] gr

George Tsourvakas is a Lecturer in the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. His research interests include media management, media economics and marketing communications
E–mail: gtsourv [at] jour [dot] auth [dot] gr

Andreas Pomportsis is a professor in Department of Informatics at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. His research interests include computer networks, multimedia systems, value added services and environments on the Internet.
Web: http://www.csd.auth.gr/personnel/info.php?id=pombortsis
E–mail: apombo [at] csd [dot] auth [dot] gr

Evagelia Avraam is a Phd student in the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. Her research interests include distributed publishing systems, electronic publishing, and information technology in journalism.
Web: http://pacific.jour.auth.gr/avraam/
E–mail: avraam@eled.auth.gr

 

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Editorial history

Paper received 1 June 2004; revised 23 March 2005; accepted 15 July 2005.
HTML markup: Susan Bochenski and Edward J. Valauskas; Editor: Edward J. Valauskas.


Copyright ©2005, First Monday

Copyright ©2005, by Andreas Veglis, George Tsourvakas, Andreas Pomportsis, and Evagelia Avraam

Adoption of information technology by Greek journalists: A case study by Andreas Veglis, George Tsourvakas, Andreas Pomportsis, and Evagelia Avraam
First Monday, Volume 10, Number 8 - 1 August 2005
http://www.firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/1266/1186





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