NATION

Opinion : Journalism In The Age Of Social Media

The act of sharing one’s opinion comes with ease as there are today different platforms available. Vibrant and dynamic topics ranging from religion, politics, crime, governance, to road conditions, fashionable
21 Jan 2017 12:00
Opinion : Journalism In The Age Of Social Media
Maneesha Karan

The act of sharing one’s opinion comes with ease as there are today different platforms available.

Vibrant and dynamic topics ranging from religion, politics, crime, governance, to road conditions, fashionable shoes and dressing tips, to celebrity gossips, have become commentable and information on these accessible, thanks to smartphones and online social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and many others.

But as the receivers of information, one needs to question whether the news and information one feeds upon from social media is reliable, accurate and trustworthy.

Social media activities have also posed queries whether it compromises news delivered by mainstream media.

The use of smartphones in daily lives has escalated dissemination of information to an all new level.

Back in the days, the most trusted medium of news were the newspaper, radio, and television-where people would buy a copy of newspaper with a freshly baked loaf of bread and read it thoroughly over a hot cup of red tea before heading off to work, or staying in tune to the hourly radio bulletins, or looking forward to when the clock would strike six in the evening and dropping what they were engulfed in to find themselves in front of their television sets.

Traditional mainstream media has progressed immensely towards online news dissemination. But it isn’t just the mainstream; citizen journalism has heightened with the advancement in technology-yes, the smart phones.

People anywhere can stream live videos, upload footage and pictures of incidents on social media. Social media has its valuable uses. It helps expose atrocities of certain communities and perhaps of certain professions.

In Fiji, we have had footage uploaded of law enforcers’ brutality, a house-helper’s ill-treatment towards an elderly woman, and the nurses’ disreputable ‘Jingle bells’ clip.

Many are enthusiastic about technological innovativeness because such impacts a citizen’s civic responsibility empowering one to contribute towards the greater good, for instance video clips of Fiji’s beautiful sandy beaches and local smiles to boost tourism, and celebrating local heroes.

And unfortunately, at times it does greater harm; an example is the disturbing video of a drowning victim which was circulated on social media.

Of course, every person does have the right to expression as prescribed in Article 19 of the Human Rights Declaration.

However, of the total 30 rights declared, Article 29 clearly articulates all rights must be exercised responsibly.

The recent verdict convicting a man for defamation on social media is a practical lesson for all.

While social media does disseminate information, posting on social media- Facebooking and twitting- is not journalism.

Journalism is being sceptical, meeting and maintaining standards of journalism which includes objectivity, neutrality, and not taking things at face value.

Social media encourages citizen journalism, which must be given value; it enables empowerment in a manner that fills the vacuum existing in the mainstream media, but one must remember that not more than one side of the story is covered.

Pictures and videos posted online do not tell both sides of the story.

Live stream videos do inform what is happening, it has significant advantages but that is not journalism.

Journalism accounts for news reliability, credibility, being ethical, and going one step further each time until the truth is exposed.

The duty of mainstream journalism is to afflict the comforted and comfort the afflicted.

Journalism does not tell people what to think but what to think about.

But these are now blurred by social media and smart phones.

Many materials being posted on social media is taking the form of karaoke journalism, where it serves as entertainment; where violence is glamourised – we have had an inexcusable post on social media of a little boy tied to a pillar as a form of punishment.

Smartphones cover issues that mainstream may not be interested in covering, and some pictures and videos do become big stories, but one needs to ask whether these pictures online represent the vested interest of the public.

There is always the temptation to use the materials by citizen journalists, but a journalist must never use without first verifying.

Journalists cannot be everywhere on the ground, and at times, these footage and pictures are the only materials journalists get on a particular story they are working on.

Nonetheless, these materials need to be filtered by mainstream media.

To uphold ethical journalism standards, a journalist must go back to where the story took place and authenticate details to seek out the truth.

This task of verifying sources becomes part of the story coverage because there are different shades of grey and each shade needs to be substantiated.

Journalism is collection, interpretation, and verification of data. Journalists need to be vigilant in the process of news-making.

Social media has revolutionised citizen journalism – in fact, changed the face of journalism, and there is a need for a constructive environment where both can work hand in hand and complement each other.

Social media does not endanger mainstream journalism, but it definitely challenges and shapes up mainstream journalism.

Feedback: jyotip@fijisun.com.fj

 



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