Baku, October 14, AZERTAC.
It has been almost 20 years since the first social network Classmate appeared in the Internet. But the world is experiencing a boom of social media. Beginning from the early 21st century, humanity stepped into the era of transformation, new stage of development of completely different relations, social relationships, which are based on ties between various sectors of society in virtually each state. The Internet, which has embedded itself into everyday life, has turned every member of society into both a consumer and data medium.
Good and bad news
“Good news: there is every thing in the Internet. Bad news: there is every thing in the Internet”. These words belong to writer Hochbright. In such a figurative manner, he evaluated the Internet. Putting aside positive and negative characteristics of what the Internet has, we have to recognize in a full sense of a word that it revolutionized the media landscape. 2014 statistics suggest that Facebook has 1.16 billion users while second-placed YouTube a total of 1 billion users. According to many of my colleagues, social media is an important source of getting large amount of information and a tool for learning about latest news. We do not disagree with an opinion that social media that is far from the rules of journalism provide information, facts and events subjectively, inaccurately, in conformity with personal attitude. These media outlets do not meet such requirements of the modern journalism as accuracy and objectivity. Online users do not bear social responsibility like journalists do and this is the reason why they differently approach to issues.
Notwithstanding these and other shortcomings, it is impossible to prevent the spread of information in social networks. Unlike journalism, which faced the lack of sources and funds, social networks have turned into the information transmitting machines. According to what I observed at the conferences and meetings I attended, I can say that majority of professional journalists favor the use of social media as a journalism development tool.
We have to pay attention to one more aspect. Not everywhere the process is going on at the same pace. In countries that are in different stages of development, this social event can manifest itself in several forms. However, a trend of creating information beyond traditional media structures of society and integration into the process of its consuming is similar to a greater or lesser degree.
Interaction is better than confrontation
How will the conflict between certified journalists and other members of society including the Internet in the traditional media sector end in the light of the growing influence of social journalism on our society? Who will gain an upper hand? Debates on this do not die off. Sometimes, opinions coincide and sometimes divide. There are cases when parties consider each other rivals. There were those who have recently called this conflict even a “cold war”. Is the situation really on the brink of war? Is a conflict between the two poles so much antagonistic? I think not. Of course, there are possibly elements of jealousy. However, here we can see more interaction than ineffective competition.
It is not accidental at all that majority of trainings at media schools based at TV channels, news agencies or newspapers have dealt with the social networks activities. It testifies to the Internet`s being the major communication vehicle for professional journalists. That is why I reiterate my confidence that the question is not about some “cold war”, but about interaction of technologies, and their mutual influence.
A beacon in the “vortex of information”
The “roundtable” meeting organized by AZERTAC
some time ago as part of the 4th Baku International Humanitarian Forum provided an opportunity to compare views of representatives of traditional media on this issue, clarify their ideas about the future. By breaking off my own arguments, I would like to touch upon the remarks of my colleagues. According to Chief Executive Officer of the Austrian APA news agency Peter Kropsh, news agencies in our digital age must rely on two facts in order to keep their traditional role in the media landscape and society. The first goal is to produce more reliable and fact-based information and news for consumers. Mr. Kropsch who called a news agency a “beacon in the vortex of information” believes that its second goal is to smooth the path to the media and all users, leading from awareness to perception through structuring information.
Director General of the Vietnamese news agency Nguyen Duc Loi said: “We need to use social media as a distribution tool to help the press spread information. We cannot forget that once there was a time when we worried about the challenges newspapers faced when electronic news websites came into being. However, with the invention of social media such as Twitter and Facebook, news websites are now facing similar challenges, with the new platforms able to constantly update news.”
Similar processes are going on in Azerbaijan as well. Chief of the department of media and communication technologies of the Baku Slavic University Aynur Bashirli is concerned about the status of Facebook that turns into kind of news provider in the Azerbaijani media. In her remarks at the Humanitarian Forum, she attributed one of the reasons of the dramatic decline of public importance of news in the traditional media to journalists` becoming increasingly influenced by social media. She asked: “If social media can replace traditional one, then, is there the need in journalistic education and journalists?”
I understand the specialist`s concern and agree with her that news agencies should not come under influence of social media and on the contrary, as our colleague from Austria said, must seek to become a “beacon in the vortex of information”.
News criteria of the epoch: speed and comfort
Our century is the century of speed and therefore, it is more important who reports the news to the consumer in a more speedier and comfortable manner. There is almost no time difference between sending and reading information in social media. Usually, people have to surf websites in order to read the news in an online newspaper. At the same time, after clicking “send” in social media, users can instantly see the text or information as a photograph or video on their screens. Using this advantage, news agencies and printing outlets opened their accounts in social media to spread their information. By exchanging this news in social media, users help to spread them to a wider audience.
But, not all, in particular, older generation, tends to use new and unusual trends. I am proud to say that our agency keeps up with challenges of the new era. Nearly all our staffers, irrespective of their age, use social technologies in their everyday business. It cannot be otherwise since our era is the age of high technologies rather than a pen and paper.
Our journalists and editors use Facebook, Youtube, Twitter and other social networks in their work. We have staffers who create special items to spread through media and can prepare and present multimedia report.
Agree with us that the new genre – multimedia report – does not require compulsory presence of a journalist on the spot. This kind of report emerges online. If our journalist participates in an event, he shares his observations online, and in this case, audience`s comments enrich and complement a material of the journalist with facts and arguments. AZERTAC`s multimedia reports contain photographs from the scene, interview with event witnesses, relations of participants and officials that were spread in social networks as well as video materials and conclusions of experts. We are advancing on the way of posting a report or a news item on the website of agencies, followed by its spread in social networks. AZERTAC has its webpage in the social networks. In this context, can we compete with ourselves? The important thing for us is to deliver accurate and prompt information to the society about developments and to minimize unverified information.
New technologies and individual brands
Social media and new technologies cannot be virtually separated from the production of multimedia products. Infographics, video and audio materials, statistics tables, geoeconomic maps are important analytical integral parts of a multimedia report. There was a time when an expression of newspapermen “Here I dot my note” was widespread. But a multimedia report does not favour the ending. As a matter of fact, it is impossible and unacceptable. The online report does not end with posting a news item on the website since a journalist who works on the issue continues to monitor the events for some time. After presenting information he can complete it in an update format. It encourages the audience to return to this material, brush it up and follow details of the event. I wonder if it was possible to achieve this several decades ago when we began our journalistic career, when there was no even a theoretical idea of what Internet is, when we considered our work complete when newspapers were published.
Social networks have a serious impact on modern journalism all over the world. They continue to remain not only a source of exclusive information received from newsmakers and witnesses of events but also have a great leverage as a means of forming their audiences. Another aspect of the issue is that each agency does not only consist of staff but also separate journalists.
Each of these journalists and reporters must, off course, observe the common conception of their agency and policy of their employer. In addition, each of them has their individual style. In many cases, an author can be recognized even without signature in his article. For the most part, many staffers have their personal blogs, special sections. For the most part, many employees have their personal blogs, special columns within separate categories on the agencies` websites. Shaping an individual brand is of great importance for such modern journalists, not only as just the one who is informed about his field but also as a competent specialist. That is why they need to explore the ways of attracting audience to their account not also as employees of a news agency but also as authors of individual online blogs.
There are many such methods. For example, tweeting sensations, using h-tags, sharing information they consider interesting with reference to the source, etc. It is fair to say that majority of employees of media organizations (I do not mean freelancers) already regard online blogging a needless burden but do not realize why they have to do the same sort of work twice. Therefore, they often settle for posting and commenting links on the Facebook. These people often fairly wonder why they need to create individual blogs because they want to be on the scene, take photographs and directly communicate with newsmakers without just compiling and posting tweets of newsmakers in networks. However, future of digital journalism for these authors of internet publications is associated with this format of professional live blogging.
The most promising journalistic professions of the future
Our time requires a different and modern approach to both the journalistic profession and media. In this regard, I cannot disagree with the opinion of my colleague from the journalism department of the Moscow State University Andrey Verkovsky: “Blogs win increasingly more space in the media landscape from traditional media. Large publications attract readers by placing posts of famous bloggers on their websites. In future, journalism based on compilation of already existing information will be a main competitor to the traditional media. A skilful compiler who makes excerpts from original texts, confronts different stances, provokes sudden debates is another promising profession.”
For this reason, I would like to remind the following: after analyzing global trends in 2009, Forbes concluded that profession of a journalist aggregator in the upcoming decade will be one of the sought-after specialties.
Is the time, when the number of information consumers through new media will exceed the number of TV viewers and readers of newspapers, near? Or how much far is it? It depends also on the flexibility of classic media, on how sensitive they are to the challenges of time, on their ability to master new technologies and modern brands, and of course, material resources.
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