Why social media shouldn’t replace good journalism

“The public have an insatiable curiosity to know everything. Except what is worth knowing. Journalism, conscious of this, and having tradesman-like habits, supplies their demands.”
Oscar Wilde

Tony Abbott has strongly backed mining magnate Gina Rinehart’s increasing investment in Fairfax Media.
Good on Gina for being prepared to invest in journalism at a difficult time… It’s not a bad thing – it’s a good thing.”
Source: Abbott backs Rinehart bid

Speaking truth to power is just as dangerous in modern times, which is why big business likes to control the media – if you can’t control the message, control the media.

Tony Abbott backs Rinehart taking over Fairfax, because he has no fear of what she would say. She has no interest in running a media empire, she wants to control the message.

If it is cheaper for Rinehart to buy a failing newspaper, to run her anti-mining-tax campaign, than to actually pay the tax, that must be some tax-bill she is trying to avoid.

Rinehart’s message and Tony’s ambition neatly fit together. He wants power, and a media to give it to him, she wants an outlet for her mining propaganda and a prime minister that will let her do anything she wants.

It is no small wonder that Abbott thinks Gina taking over Fairfax is good.

This increasing concentration of media ownership in fewer and fewer hands, is not so good for democracy.

With the increasing Murdocracy and now the Gina-fication of Australian media, there has been a lot of people calling it the end of media as we know it.

However, there has been a growing tendency for social media users to dismiss television, radio, newspapers as being the Old media, and the New media is good enough. Blogs, twitter, other social network sites, are increasingly becoming the only source of news for some people as they cancel their newspaper subscriptions and turn off the television.

The media creates history, how often do we turn to television or newspapers to find out what happened, during natural disaster or world-shattering events. When we look back at newspapers of the past we can’t know if they are true, we have to assume they are, they become history.

Mainstream media has until now, always been the final word on an event. Personal stories were subjective. The media was objective.

Media had the money, the trained professionals with the time to devote to gathering a story, the contacts.

But as modern mass media has become more subjective, the journalist has made themselves the centre of the story. How often have we seen a journalist interview other journalists as if they were expects, meantime, people who have studied politics, geo-politics, history, economics, have been pushed aside as “elites”.

Media has help create world-changing events – for example Phan Thi Kim Phuc, the young girl who was napalmed during the Vietnam war, her photo was taken and shown around the world, and change how people thought about the war. Even though the photo won a Pulitzer prize, the subject of the photo was the most important thing.

Now it seems that because journalism or photography or a gotcha-interview can change the world, an election, or bring attention to famines, journalists have begun to see that they are the ones changing the world, rather than their subject.

The messenger has become more important than their message.

Journalists dish up opinion pieces, as if their opinions count. They no longer do research or investigate or ask questions.

In this context, yes, social media can and does beat Old media every time, it is faster, unfiltered through a grab for celebrity, citizen journalists can report from inside the action, rather than an observer.

But what new media cannot do is provide a context it. We can get reports tweeted out as a town in Syria is being bombed, but without knowing why, how, who is bombing, what the other side is doing, we really don’t know much more than we did previously, except a town is being bombed.

We can get the news instantly, but if we don’t know why it is important, how does it change anything. Like the pieces of a puzzle, you do not see the big picture until all the pieces are together – expert analysis, on the spot reporting, history, money and time to follow leads.

Bloggers, tweeters, writers, photographers, publicists, researchers, fact-checkers, investigators, editing, can any one person do it all?

Blogs and tweets can be a piece in the puzzle, but New Media will never really come into its own and replace Old Media, until there is someone who can put the pieces together.

Social media shouldn’t replace good journalism, if only we had some good journalism.


9 Comments to “Why social media shouldn’t replace good journalism”

  1. Have just signed up with SMH digital. Have been a reader for ever. Hope it keeps its’ integrity unlike the coalition.

  2. I can see Gina and Phoney Tony in a Trust. Gina can then manage Australia, and the NO coalition as trustee.

  3. Good journalism can exist without old media=newspapers and once a way to pay per view for a single story written by a committed journalist is perfected their will be no need for old media.
    NBN will give fast delivery to a system were I buy a pre paid news card click an article from a site and payment is transferred to the writers account. It will eventually come to this and if I want political news I will be able to find someone I trust and enjoy reading and will buy that article or a number of stories on the same subject from various journalists to get more depth.
    The good times are coming.

  4. The likes of Abbott and Rinehart only apply the ethos of “Every man (or woman) for himself” when it suits.

    If they can join forces to increase their leverage over those with less influence they can and do.

    • if they werent trying to maximise their profits no matter what, I would be surprised, wouldnt like it, but thats what they do… the question is why politicians step back and let them through

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