An article on the weekly sports newspaper, “Ethio-Sport”, by Abiy Teklemariam has inspired me to write this article based on his writings. At the begging of his article he wrote, “The new media is on our closer reach. Internet has changed media’s identity.
As post-modernism created a stir in arts and literature, liberal economics made a paradigm change in the market system mentality. Internet has also indulged the media in a continuous unrest.”
Abiy analogized the effect that internet created in the media with the impact of the invention of printing machine on the then Catholic church. Before the invention, the Holy Bible was only the property of the clergy. The people shape their spiritual mentality with the interpretation and teachings delivered by the clergy. With the coming of the printing machine, everyone became privileged to own the Bible and to start their own personal interpretations. And there came a proliferation of religions. Likewise, the internet has enabled people to interact and react to the views of the mainstream media. It made the mainstream media not to be imposers of thought. Journalism happened to be exercised in every house. Bloggers have emerged. With the onset of blogging, ideas came to be digested, rejected, supported and got into a continuous action-reaction, unlike the previous single directional pronouncement of the mainstream media.
The editor of the Intraspundit web-site, Glen Reynolds, as quoted in the article, compared this effect with Brewery. Imagine the production of the mainstream media as a beer produced in a factory, and the bloggers as beer produced at home. Which one tastes good?
A blog is a user-generated website where entries are made in journal style and displayed in reverse chronological order. Blogs often provide commentary or news on a particular object, such as food, politics, or local news. The world’s journalistic empire is now forced to include bloggers. Biggest media like the New York Times, The Guardian and The Times, have included their own bloggers. In November 2006, blog search engine Technocrati was tracking more than 57 million Blogs.
When the world’s media is going through such a big reform that included the people’s participation in journalism, when we look at the people’s role here in the journalistic milieu, the feedbacks of the people to the media’s view won’t pass beyond a gossip. And this consequently has despaired the people in being part of the country’s journalism. However, the way that journalism is shifting gears could be an exemplary experience to take lessons from.
In Abiy’s article, Jay Rosen, media professional, has briefly put the impact of the new media on the general identity of media.
1. News turns from lecture to conversation
For most of our media, everything will be finalized after publishing or broadcasting news. Another media professional, Jef Yavers, says, when news of a newspaper is published, then the news starts. There’s no news that’s put to an end. When the mainstream media publishes the news, the new media starts to criticize, reject and add additional information. Then, the conversation between the mainstream and the new media starts. And news would stop to be a one-sided lecture. Jay Rosen says, “Some of the pressure of the blogs are putting on journalism shows up, then, in the demand for ‘news as conversation’, more of a back-forth, less of a pronouncement.
According to Wikipedia Encyclopedia, since 2002 blogs have gained increasing notice and coverage for their role in breaking, shaping and spinning news stories. The Iraq was saw bloggers taking measured and passionate points of view that go beyond the traditional left-right divide of the political spectrum.
2. Content will be more important than its container
The mainstream media used to gain credibility basically only from the reputation of its brand. In the new media, however, the content has become more valuable than the containing brand.
In the new media, to get an access to an information, you need not browse the websites of famous newspapers. The RSS (Really Simple Syndication or Rich Site Summary), a data format that provides an abundant summary of digital contents like a blog, and news, provides a summary of writings by headlines, sub-headlines and briefly begun contents of the information needed. If we think the content is interesting, we can go to the website where the content is originally found. The content will lead us to the writing, not the brand or logo. When we use news aggregators like Google the content will be more relevant that the containter. Media professionals call this “The stripping effect”. And this effect made to an end the trend by which the mainstream media used to attract more readers merely by its brand.
3. My Readers know more than I do
In the mainstream media, the journalists happen to be authoritarian. The journalist who writes a feature or opinion would face challenges only on “letters to the editor”. Even those who know his mistakes or flows would pass it personally realizing his mistake. But the new media has limited this impact of the mainstream media. In the media business, it should be taken under consideration that the reader would have a better understanding and know-how about the subject under discussion. So, the new media is open now to tackle the pronouncement of the mainstream media.
4. He said, she said, we said
Mainstream journalists sometimes consider themselves as only event reporters. “Someone said this and the other said that,” was the motto of journalism. And the new media brought the motto “And we said this”. Media professionals call this “Reportorial Authority”. The “He said, she said” approach endangers the accuracy of news. For instance the government may declare that the coverage of telecommunication service has showed increment in 10 percent. And the country’s free stasticians would reject the figure. In the accustomed news approach it would be said, “Though the government announced that the telecommunication coverage has showed a 10% increment, staticians have put the figure in question”.
On the other side, the bloggers have begun making a detailed analysis, in crossing the “He said, she said” information with the real facts and proving the accuracy of the news by their own authority. And the reader is preferring this approach. With this effect, the mainstream media is being forced proof the accuracy of the information with further analysis. On this point the senior diplomatic reporter of the New York Times, Steven Wiseman, says, “If you have to decide who is right then you must do more reporting. I pressed the reporting further, because I didn’t have the luxury of saying X says this and Y says this and you, dear reader, can decide who’s right.”
The new media is given different names. Some call it, “We media” and others call it “Netroot”. And there are those who prefer to call it “citizen media”.
In this great reform of the media business it is better to put our media culture in the spotlight and go for possible solution for our crawling media. Let’s wake up. Citizens are being stakeholders in the journalistic process. So, I encourage those who can get access to the internet to create their own blog and write their long suppressed emotions, be it political, societal or any, and join the interacting globe.
By Abiy Solomon