A new type of news is here and it is radically different from what we’ve seen before. Is that a good thing in the long run? Does it get people involved politically? This is something we can’t assume even though traditional media has served such a role in a democratic society, since new media doesn’t operate under the same norms. Maybe it is too unfiltered, too raw, or maybe there’s too much of it for people to make sense of.
Herbert J. Gans is a famous sociologist whose work includes media studies, and he raises these exacts concerns . However, he makes the same criticisms of traditional media, that is, he feels all forms of news media fail to stick to journalistic standards and contain enough quality information to inform voters. Perhaps old forms of news on TV and in print can respond to this, but what about Twitter and blogger.com? On other hand, does news have to be in all cases slow and measured like he proposes?
I don’t think Gans’ condemnation is warranted. I agree it is good for a healthy democracy to have investigative journalists from major outlets, but new media gives something unique. Old media relied on word of mouth; if you missed last night’s broadcast, you had to ask a friend to regurgitate everything that was said. However now we take a tweet or article and “like” it, link it, tweet it, and text it to all our friends. Whatever the story, it can be accessed 24/7 even if it’s a video. It injects information on politics and news into the daily conversation. Before your friend might not mention a recent political speech in their 5-minute face-to-face conversation with you, but now this information is sent out to your phone in the same way a friendly text would be (and you can “like” it, comment on it, and pass it on). The ease of information sharing which new media provides seems to be indispensible for a democracy.
So we stand at a crossroads. We use both old ways to get news (TV, print) and new media. These new types of news outlets have fundamentally changed how we access news and talk about what’s going on. Internet and mobile phones connects people together. Not only are we connected to our friends, but to public figures, the entire country, and the world. It is for this reason I am optimistic about where new media can take us in the future.