Media without social media?
By: Madeeha Ishtiaque
Audience, once a passive recipient of information and merely cornered to the opinion section of a political talk show or ‘letter-to-the-editor’ is now empowered to not merely regulate but also originate the content it wishes to watch and read – thanks to the big social media revolution.
What social media has done is provide a voice to a repressed and frustrated audience that previously had no channel to voice its concerns. The ‘new media’ is viewed as a partner of news outlets and its prominence lies in being a host to a whole congregation of common experiences shared by the digital audience.
Facebook and Twitter, two of the most popular social media sites, are now perhaps more powerful distributors of content across the web. However, owing to the difference in the way new media operates as against traditional media, the credibility and morality of content that it publishes is questioned very frequently.
The entire YouTube banning episode was an aftermath of a bunch of extremists clandestinely uploading a blasphemous video that infuriated Muslims across the world.
It wasn’t as if the profane video was aired by a foreign TV channel or the content was featured by a newspaper. The filmmakers didn’t have to incur any cost nor expend any effort approaching any of these outlets. Instead, they used the world’s best – and free of cost – video portal, with a huge viewership and, consequently impact.
The question that has resurfaced many time since then: was it YouTube that needed to be banned or unchecked information that only needed someone to monitor it?
If we agree social media to be the culprit, we must also look at the good it has done. Social media has opened numerous doors for new businesses to flourish without any advertising and publicising expense?
The result – new entrepreneurs, including designers, bakers and artists getting a chance and boosting the rate of employment.
People now prefer doing most things online – from booking airline tickets to shopping – rather than spend time doing them physically.
Similarly, now one doesn’t really need others to connect them with their prospective employees, with sites like LinkedIn and Rozee.pk.
Now to fight crime or other social injustices you don’t even need a ‘long march’, all you need are massive ‘shares’ – and you have a bomb-proof way to express yourself. Could things be any easier?
Perhaps not, but the lacunas still poke out big. With the overdose of information due to the presence of citizen journalists, bloggers, micro-bloggers and the ever-increasing websites and channels, it has become difficult to tell which information is reliable.
Every now and then numerous false stories of break-ups and hook-ups of stars and celebrities pop on Facebook and Twitter as part of propaganda or PR-managed gossip.
We don’t need paparazzi reporters to haunt celebrities and icons any more when baseless news against them can be shared by pushing a few buttons on the keyboard. A year back, news of Prince William and Princess Catherine’s separation went viral on the web and had its roots in theonion.com – a website famous for satirical news.
Two facts emerge out of this: social media sites, especially of serious news groups, need to put in the same editorial effort it takes to filter and test news stories as do traditional media reporters and editors, in order to ensure the credibility of the news in digital space.
This would require serious screening, efforts to verify the source and of course, editorial discretion to establish ones reputation. Moreover, it requires the similar set of laws and punitive measures applied to the traditional media, to be applied on digital news outlets.
There are many who keep dismissing social media as an epidemic and then embracing it as a remedy to all ills. We must be rational in our approach. But we must also be aware that the fact remains, as asserted by the Digital First Media chief executive John Paton: “No social media connection, no news organisation.”