Russell (et al.) compares elite media and institutions with bloggers and ponders the following question: “Do bloggers, with their editorial independence, collaborative structure and merit-based popularity more effectively inform the public?” (Reader, page 136). Do you agree? Use examples to illustrate your point of view.
It is an undeniable fact that blogging has became a global phenomenon that complements and competes with traditional media institutions. While both communication forms ultimately aim to inform the public, there are disadvantages and merits to both. The answer as I see it is dual communication, that is using elite media and blogs is the most effective way to inform the public.
The impact that blogging has in informing and rallying the public during periods of political turmoil can’t be overstated.
For example, during the postelection crisis in Kenya in 2008, “the social media functioned as an alternative medium for citizen communication or participatory journalism” (Mäkinen, 2008: 328). After the election, both political parties claimed to have won the polls.
Leaders of the opposing parties: Mwai Kibaki vs. Raila Odinga
To decrease transparency, the government implemented a five-day media ban, leaving the public uninformed and confused. In the midst of a news black-out, blogging became the primary means of relaying information. One Kenyan blogger wrote, “I was going to see things for myself and not rely on the traditional media. And so I went out to capture the pulse of the country” (Mäkinen, 2008:328). Similar examples can be seen in Lybia and Egypt, where blogs undeniably inform the public more effectively than media institutions.
Russell argues that an “increasing skepticism toward mainstream media, have prompted readers to become active participants in the creation and dissemination of news” (2008:67). While this is true, it is not as easy for the public to take on media roles as is implied here and their processes are not necessarily accurate.
The problem with blogging is that professional methods are not always practiced, “in most cases, bloggers simply do not have the time, skills, and the financial means to do proper research” (Lovink,:8). This can lead to the publication of incorrect, defamatory information that is of no real use to the public. Similarly, the long established relationships between elite media and institutions such as the Australian Government ensure interviews and information that bloggers can not access. In addition, the rigorous research and editing process enforced in media institutions provide relatively accurate and insightful information. These qualities do not appear as much in the free world of blogging. Thus, the information produced is often not of a high quality, misinforming the public on many occasions.
However, the democratized voice that pervades the ‘blogosphere’ is often far better at informing the public than politically and economically motivated media institutions that present bias news. Traditional news media are now using the Internet to reach a wider audience but their comments and blogs remain edited and censored, effectively ‘giving voice to the already-voiced’ (Russell, 2008: 68). For example, Fox News is a television channel owned by Rupert Murdoch that is renowned for producing heavily right-wing ideas because of the owners political, economic standing. This is the trailer of the revealing documentary ‘OutFoxed’ that sheds light on Fox News’ questionable reliability:
Blogs provide a voice for all people, creating a pool of diverse information unlike elite media institutions and can be useful during political turmoil. However, they are not held to the standards and liability that elite media institutions are which makes blogs less effective in informing the public.
Ultimately, when old and new media are both utilised, the public is best informed.
Anokwa, K., C. Lin and M. Salwen, (eds) (2003) International Communication. Canada: Thomson Wadsworth
Mäkinen, M., Kuira, M., Social Media and Postelection Crisis in Kenya, http://hij.sagepub.com/content/13/3/328.full.pdf+html, 15 May 2011.
Russell (et al.), (2008) ‘Culture: Media Convergence and Networked Culture’ pp. 43-76 in K. Varnelis (ed) Networked Publics. Cambridge: MA: MIT Press.