New communication technologies have always driven change in the media. From Gutenberg’s printing press to the internet – the media realm has undergone drastic transformations with each new medium, bringing methodologies and techniques that have defined and shaped journalism.
Come the age of internet and web 2.0 and we are witnessing a media metamorphosis like never before. Not only has the digital age made information dissemination faster and more efficient, it has fundamentally altered the direction of this information flow. Gone are the days when information used to flow in a one-way, “top-down” fashion, from the powerful media barons to the passive audiences. Now, thanks to the social media boom, the audience is actively involved in the kind of content that is aired and published in addition to producing that content themselves.
A technologically empowered public has given birth to new form of journalism altogether, popularly called “participatory journalism”, “grassroots journalism”, “citizen journalism” or “crowd-sourced journalism”.
Social media platforms like blogs, micro-blogging websites like Twitter and social networks like Facebook, MySpace, and Reditt etc are at the pinnacle of this new media revolution. The development of user-friendly, low cost or free online content management tools like Blogger, BlogSpot, WordPress, Tumblr etc have helped facilitate the rapid growth and popularity of independently managed websites that are now sharing the role that was traditionally occupied by the mainstream media.
While some established media owners and professionals have responded to this new “invasion of the audience” with suspicion, skepticism and even derision, others have gladly accepted it and integrated new media into the conventional newsroom. Audiences, readers or subscribers are now empowered by the multiple choices available in the marketplace that are faster at disseminating mews. Add to that the collapse in advertising revenue faced by a large number of media organizations globally, and you have the perfect formula that spells the demise of traditional print. Internet journalism in the form of news websites utilizing multimedia platforms, blogs and citizen journalism are now taking the place of mainstream print media.
The diminishing importance of print has been abetted by the competition from television news. Breaking stories are already broadcast on televisions and news websites as they happen, making their appearance in the next day’s newspaper pointless. Those who believe that newspaper provides analysis and in-depth reporting (that electronic media doesn’t), can find more dynamic versions of said in-depth reporting on news websites and blogs. By the time a story makes it to the news paper, it has already been covered with all possible angels on television channels and news websites.
Breaking grounds with breaking news
Anyone with even a little exposure to today’s social media would be able to vouch for how social networks and micro-blogging platforms like Facebook and Twitter have been effective mediums for breaking news along with providing discussions and analysis. A number of major news events have been broken and reported in-depth on the social media by citizens.
A major example is the news of Osama bin Laden’s killing which was first reported on Twitter by a Pakistani blogger Sohaib Athar when he unknowingly live tweeted the entire episode as US helicopters raided bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad (Pakistan). After a number a number of tweets that served as a live report for the entire raid, Athar tweeted “Uh oh, now I’m the guy who live-blogged the Osama raid without knowing it”.
Similarly, reports of number of bomb blasts have often made it to twitter first before being reported on the local media. It is believed that the Mumbai terrorist attacks were first reported on Twitter. Describing the role played by Twitter in breaking the news, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone described how the first Twitter report of the ground shaking during earthquake tremors in California came nine minutes before the first associated press alert.
While these trends show how new technologies and new journalism concepts are being embraced by the mainstream media, there is a need for traditional media to be cautious in its use of social media. Concerns about credibility and ethics are not unfounded. There is always the risk of inaccuracy, deliberate misinformation and spin. As one of the fundamental principles of journalism holds, being right trumps being first. Only organizations that are able to adapt themselves to changing technology, while adhering to the essential principles of journalism, will be able to survive in the future.
Sohail Qaisar runs a technology review blog, which is also a guest posting blog. Checkout his article on a very interesting topic related to graphics cards, NVIDIA or ATI? If you want to write a guest article for his blog or hire him as a writer for your blog, then contact him through: [email protected]