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Innovation journalism

Social media has crossed all the traditional boundaries

By Zeeshan Hussain

In today’s world, with the introduction of global media, it is inevitable for the mediums of communication to cross the geographical boundaries, challenging state authorities and giving the right to speak literally at the grassroots level.

Last month I was in America and I found all and sundry engrossed in their iPads, iPhones, Apple clad laptops and blackberries, which convinced me that never has mankind observed such connectivity and such a sharing as we find on Facebook, Twitter etc. We saw masses flocking to squares to protest against the despotism of dynastic and age-old personal regimes in North Africa and Middle East.

In Pakistan, we have never criticised the role of our intelligence agencies for the tyranny unleashed against journalists. We have put the footage of horrible crime perpetrated by some soldiers on our pages and thus shared the views regarding the heinous crimes being committed against innocent people. Few months back, footage of few soldiers killing some people was disseminated through Facebook and the chief justice took notice of it. Chief of Army Staff General Kayani had to investigate it, though results have not been made public, thanks to the “forgetfulness of Facebook revolutionaries”. Actually the age of news in social media is as long as the news feed page lasts on the screen.

I have spent three days in Palo Alto (Stanford University) where eighth conference on innovation journalism was held. Bloggers, social media activists, citizen journalists, website holders and news gatherers participated and magnified the role of social media in the world at present. Here are the salient points referring to the vision they exhibit:

1- Innovation journalism has directly approached the common man bypassing the conventional authority of reporters, traditional journalists and news analysts. Anyone can break news; anyone can contribute and anyone can make analysis now.

2- Social media has crossed over the state boundaries and state authorities. We are free!

3- Osama Bin Laden’s news was first broken through a tweet from Abbottabad. So, the authority of mainstream media will be shared or rather replaced by social media actors now.

4- Iphone and iPad users in advanced countries whereas cell phone users and laptop users in developing countries were increasing geometrically. Leave lunch for two months and have an iPad. This is the spirit.

5- Reports put forward through YouTube and Facebook have appealed more effectively to the people than those presented by mainstream media. Truth is on everyone’s lips now.

6- Social media has connected people hailing from diverse lingual, geographical and religious entities all over the world. Yes. Thumbs of the world, unite.

7- Age of newspapers is over and e-paper, websites, Twitter and Facebook will replace traditional newspapers. “Always when someone smiles, someone else has to weep in this world,” thinks writer and poet Samuel Beckett.

8- We will not be confined to hear from news reporters but citizen journalists will blow the monopoly of reporters up. So? We don’t have to go for news, rather news will come to us now.

For me the conference was more like a campaign to sell iPhone and iPad and Apple just like nations started feeling the need of having nuclear weapons after Hiroshima was bombed. I raised many questions and I am grateful to the organisers who always gave me a chance to put a question. Here are the reservations which I put forward in the form of questions:

1- Guest speakers in the panel urge bloggers to contribute for websites but no one shows commitment to pay the bloggers.

2- Citizen journalists need money to travel to far-flung areas to gather news, but there is no mechanism so far designed to protect them.

3- Social media and its use, if not converted into a serious profession, will turn out to be a superficial entertainment.

4- English is lingua franca just because America has been dominating the world politically if not economically, but what if Chinese dominate political world order in coming future. Will Chinese be the lingua franca?

5- Traditional media, by and large, has been persuasive, reliable, credible and truthful but what is the criterion to evaluate the truthfulness and credibility of the news put forward by citizen journalists?

6- Freedom is the cornerstone of social media but what measure will be taken to check blasphemous material on Facebook or Twitter etc?

7- Would there be worked-out ethics to be followed by citizen journalists in presenting the stories?

8- We can question the truthfulness and source of a news report being printed in traditional media, but how can the viewers of websites and readers of blogs question the truthfulness of a blogger’s report?

9- Innovation journalism has been magnified in the conference and the flocking of people to Tahreer Square is a classical example to substantiate the point in favour of social media, but we have seen that social media doesn’t make people imaginative enough to delineate a strategy and vision that should bring about a real revolution. Facebook revolution is actually an organised mass protest to change the status quo.

10- The real cost people will have to pay for social media is: isolation. The closer they are through thumbs, the farther away they are by hearts.
Source: The News