Guess this won't come as a big surprise to anyone, but reporting in or from a virtual world like Second Life brings new challenges and opportunities, both for 'real life' media organisations with bureaus there, like Reuters and CNET, and for the news outlets that only serve the virtual community. For one, whether or not to quote Second or Real life identities in the reporting is a bit of an issue, but only for 'real life' media organisations it seems:
For wholly virtual reporters like Pixeleen Mistral, the question of real-world identities isn't even addressed -- perhaps not surprising for a journalist who herself is only known by a handle. "My reporting is about the world inside Second Life, and I confirm with the sources in world," she explained in an e-mail. "It introduces more confusion to drag the real-life person into the scene. It might depend on the story, but if you want to cover transgendered furries [avatars that look like the plush animal costumes of theme parks], getting a real-life name and contact might be hard."
For more on the joys and ethical dilemmas of virtual journalism, and an introduction to some Second Life media hubs, check out this enlightening article from Editor&Publisher.
Update 18/02: A few days after the article in Editor&Publisher appeared, Journalism.co.uk interviewed Adam
Reuters, Reuter's dedicated Second Life correspondent, who provided even more insights into reporting from the virtual world. In some respects it's not that different from a regular beat he said, his experiences certainly higlighted the value for reporters of getting out and about and talking to sources rather than getting stuck in an office, real or virtual. However, 'though still a beat in the old sense - even if you do fly between appointments - virtual world reporting has brought a new set of challenges. "We had to make a few changes to our editorial practises because we're talking to people who are in essence anonymous - at least in terms of their real life identities." Read the full interview here.