Journalism in a Rapidly-Changing World of Social Media

By Illah Michael Ojodomo

THE subject of communication has been with mankind for centuries. Its nature and content, especially communication in its most professional form– journalism, depends largely on the society and time in question and stretches to the quality of communication journalists are able to project to the society and help individuals make better, informed decisions.

Historically, when the Acta Diurna, argued to be the earliest known journalistic product was first circulated in 59 BCE ancient Rome, it may have not been predicted that the work of a the Journalist would go from just hounding news sheets to a more technically driven system of Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press and into the New World of challenges and opportunities.

Over the years, the world has witnessed robust man made and natural changes in its political, social, cultural and economic life and the concept of news and work description of the journalist continue to tweak in that regard. By effect, the advent of Information Communications Technologies, the breakthroughs in Silicon Valley that birthed the internet as well as the proliferation of its services have, as glaringly seen, caused an unremitting decline in the use of traditional media. This, for one, has initiated and sustained a global trend of unrelenting resort to the internet as a means of news and information dissemination.

Even, the invention of cable in the 1980s and the expansion of the Internet in the 2000s opened up more options for media consumers than ever before. People could watch anything at the click of a button, bypass commercials, and record programs of interest. The resulting saturation, or inundation of information as well its access thereby relieves consumers of formerly being mere passive players in the information chain, to being important stakeholders in gathering, processing and dissemination of these information. Hence, there is no gain saying the emergence of new media has positively affected the quality and rapidity of the journalism profession to the eternal delight of mankind.

Reactively, this democracy of information has forced developing countries such as Nigeria to opt for newer methods to foster convergence of both the old and new media by attempted synergy. This has improved the information flow patterns, resulting to a wonderful expansion of possibilities despite the many infrastructural challenges affecting the growth and potency of smooth convergence.

Today, online journalism is taught in schools to study habits and dispositions of potential internet users without neglecting the professional ethics of the journalist. For scholarly clarity, the technological determinism theory, as developed by Innis (1950) McLuhan (1964) and Defluer and Ball Rockeach (1982) is relevant in dealing with journalism and the new media which in simple terms, mean that unlike the old days, consumers are currently receiving information in a different, more convenient way.

Social media, like Facebook, Twitter and others birth the concept of citizen journalism where anyone can use their personal recording devices and cell phones to capture events and post them online. By implication, most traditional media outlets are catching up with the rest of the world in breaking the barrier of the information gap through feedback and participatory mechanisms, a boggling, yet interesting challenge for the journalist.

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