Though a new term for most of us in the UK, it is increasingly common in the US newspaper world. It is an umbrella term for the use of computers in news-gathering. Journalists in the US now regularly search for relevant information in the electronic realm, including government databases and online archives. From it they derive ideas for stories, find contacts, get essential background information and check their facts, in an electronic analogue of traditional legwork. They use software tools such as spreadsheets and data mining programs to search, collate and process data. computer-assisted journalism (CAJ) is also known as computer-assisted reporting (CAR). None of these terms are likely to be taken up quickly in the UK, not because of doubts over the value of the technique or because British newspapers are generally less wired than their US equivalents and their staffs less computer-literate, but because the electronic information that is the lifeblood of American CAJ often doesn’t exist in Britain, and where it does it is frequently inaccessible as a result of the provisions of the Official Secrets Act.
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