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Newspapers used to be – sometimes still are – the playthings of powerful people, the kind of people who didn’t want to do anything as grubby as get elected, they just wanted to control those who were through the ‘power of the press.’
Now that the press is in decline surely it is a good thing that powerful people – those elevated by election, or riches, or celebrity, or all of the above – can reach their audience directly by social media without the distortion or perspective (take your pick) of journalists getting in the way.
The ability of worldwide stars to project their own image means they are not prey to being ‘monstered’ by the red tops (translation for those of a strictly digital age: having their reputations trashed – justifiably or not – by tabloids seeking sensation in order to sell more papers). This is a good thing, right? Except, for example, when those celebrities build an unfettered image that turns out to be disturbingly, even dangerously, far from the truth.
And the ability for the news and ideas to spread unfiltered is also a good thing, surely? Certainly the Arab Spring was an example of oppressive regimes being simply bypassed by the modern world of social media. But the bypassing of any medium of selection or perspective also means misinformation can be passed along in the service of one crackpot ideology or another. Or in the service of one seeking traditional power over the heads of old media practices; yes you can Mr Trump.
The problem with the press, it was said, was it just reinforced its reader’s prejudices; it was a cheerleader for what you already thought. To the extent that was right, broadcast news was seen as the antidote; a ‘just the facts’ alternative. Well, sometimes; no one ever accused Fox News or RT – to name but two – of letting the facts spoil a good (or self serving) story.
But now social media means not a thousand, but millions of flowers can bloom – everyone’s a broadcaster, everyone can be their own researcher; what could go wrong? Trouble is, social media means a million axe grinders can get to air and find their resonance with millions more who like the way they chop. Social media is more of an echo chamber for the egoistical and plain misguided than the press ever was.
There’s a lot at stake. Unless journalism finds a way to make professional reporting appealing enough for digital generations to recognise it and pay for it, then we can all look forward to a permanent level of public discourse about edifying as that surrounding the current Republican Presidential nomination.
In the April issue of Euromedia (available on April 16th Day One of NAB) we take a deep dive into the future of TV news and its interaction with social media:
“It’s in all our interests to create sustainable business models that defend professional news journalism.”- Camilla Dahlin-Andersson, Newstag
“In the future, consumers will take increasing control over the news content that they want to consume.” – Alla Salehian, TIMA
“In 2016, broadcasters must find ways to regain control of their audience….Importantly, if organisations don’t take control, they could face another Myspace moment where the social platforms they rely on start losing popularity, leaving journalists shouting across an empty room.” – Sylvain Giuliani, Pusher
“The role of news channels is evolving, along with the rest of the media.” – Richard Porter, BBC
“Video plays an important part in the news experience in both a mobile and social world.” – Sandy Macintyre, Associated Press
“Our technology allows us to provide each user with a news programme that is personalised to their interests.” – Isaac Showman, Reuters TV
“Publishing on social media gives editors an opportunity to innovate.” – Ivor Crotty, RT
“Broadcasters are moving towards distributed content via social media platforms to reach a wider and younger audience.” Richard Sambrook, Cardiff School of Journalism
“It’s now physically impossible for news agencies to break all the news all of the time.” Sylvain Giuliani, Pusher
“News is increasingly demand-driven rather than an ‘on the hour’ offering.” – Henrik Eklund, Newstag