So we know we exist in a world where traditional news media plays a lessened but still relevant role in our lives. The accessibility of television still reaches the entire country, and it is easy to understand why it is the default way which we can access presidential addresses, press releases, and news on major events. How does new media fit into this paradigm? Does social media and the variety of online content serve the same purpose or function the same way?
This is difficult to determine, because it’s hard to find where the line is drawn between “news media” and all other forms. A producer of news is often no longer a journalist; During elections bloggers update us from the campaign trail, and during times of crisis citizen reporters on the ground in that region serve as a critical source of information.
Even when journalists are a part of the new media outlets, they may use the same device to publish their information: for example, on Twitter. In the sports world this is readily apparent. The tweets of athletes and beat reporters make the headlines and are where news first breaks. What’s unique is this news inhabits the same space as everyday social interaction. At noon a sports writer could mention his fabulous lunch or respond informally to one of his readers, and 3 hours later he could break the news of a blockbuster trade. Same user, same website, same page, but radically different content.
Let’s think of this another way: how do we get information from troubled parts of the world during a crisis? In 1989 during the protests in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, how did we figure out what was happening on the ground? How did we reach the protestors? America was confined to long, panning shots of tanks and demonstrations, with History Channel specials in the years to come. Contrast this with the Arab Spring and revolution in Egypt. Yes, we were able to imbed some reporters under great duress, but throughout the entire event it was ordinary Egyptian citizens getting the word out through any means necessary: to each other, and to the world. For example, this CNN blog (and several others like it) served as the primary means by which to keep abreast of the situation; the authors would collate and condense thousands of any relevant Egyptian tweets, Facebook postings, and blog entries for Americans (http://news.blogs.cnn.com/2011/01/28/clashes-erupt-in-cairo-elbaradei-told-to-stay-put-cnn-camera-confiscated/ ). There was no delay and no montage of censored days-old footage on the evening news. This example of new media was live, raw, and unfiltered.