The Impact of Social Media on Traditional Journalism

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By Solomon A. Ware Sr.

When comparing social media and traditional media, it is a good idea to know just what you’re piling up. The category of traditional media is a rather large one. One is likely to be exposed to many outlets every day. If one turns on the TV at home, listen to the radio in the car, or read a magazine, he/she is experiencing marketing through traditional media channels.

Newspapers in the morning and every billboard that you drive by on the way to work are all traditional media working their way into one’s day-to-day life. They’re everywhere, doing their best to influence us with flashy ads and sales-heavy copy. But are they doing a good enough job? Are they influencing you in a way that builds trust with their product or service? Or are they just bombarding you repeatedly with the same message? Do social media do a better job than traditional media? Let’s find out.

Gone are the days in Liberia when products and destinations are reviewed from a neutral journalist’s perspective, but instead today’s social influencer are explicitly voicing their opinions and feedback, coercing a loyal following to copy whatever they recommend.

The Effect of Social Media in Liberia

When pondering the benefits of social media in relation to traditional media, it is important to consider the effect social media have on marketing as a whole. The world of marketing has changed in a dramatic and far-reaching way and social media actors have played a significant role in that transition.

Perhaps the biggest effect of social media on traditional media and content is that now everyone feels like he or she has a voice. Whether through Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat, social media has provided a public forum for anyone who has an opinion. While this has created an overwhelmingly saturated social atmosphere, this has also led to a genuine wave of voices and influencer on social outlook.

In present day Liberia, the social media is proving to be a useful tool for marketers to search, track and analyze conversation and trends. Most PR professionals are now using social media monitoring tools up front, utilizing social media data to influence PR strategies, as well as report on competitors and public sentiment and engagements.

Nowadays, most public events are screened live on Facebook, a move that is viewed by many as eroding interest in the traditional media.

This, in my opinion, the social media is enhancing the traditional media. There are many ways by which social media has enhanced traditional media, and in fact the two go hand-in-hand now. For example many of the broadcast institutions in Monrovia and other parts of Liberia are now creating social media platforms, a particular case with OK Liberia, FM 99.5, considering how social media can be incorporated in order for a more creative and ultimately successful campaign, and keep a finger on the pulse of the changing media industry and how social plays into it.

This Broadcast House regularly posts major headlines from its everyday news stories on it Facebook page and allows the audience to participate by explicitly voicing opinions and feedbacks. Also major programs being aired on this radio are also screened live with audio but not video as in the case with Television.

The Misuse of the Social Media

The notion of gate keeping on social media requires a different conceptualization than the actual meaning of the word. In the traditional gate keeping literature, the gatekeeper is someone who discretely guards gates, determining which news does reach the audience and which does not. In a strict following of this definition, it can be argued that there will not be any gatekeepers in the social media, because the redundancy of channels “undermines the idea that there are discrete gates through, which political information passes.”

If there are no “gates,” there can be no “gatekeepers.” Social Media is beneficial when it is used right. It is NOT for insulting people or sharing nude photos. It’s for knowing where people are, what people do, what they think, and what’s happening now to their life.

Many young Liberians both at home and abroad, using fake profiles, make the social media as a place to display their unsavory behaviors in hopes of becoming famous instantly. On the other hand, there are people who are just natural but they’re famous because of their talents. However, when the social media is used wrongly, the benefit will fade out and the disadvantage will come.

We have heard about several crimes committed through the use of social media, particularly Facebook. The crimes are just not a physical crime, like theft, or some kind of homicide, but the sharing of nude photos of individuals, and showing pornography to the society and other cyber crimes, which has the proclivity to threaten the law and humanity and also give an opportunity for crime to happen furthermore.

The Accuracy and Trust of the Social Media

Traditional media uses cannons to fire its messages hoping to get to anyone who will listen (read, watch, etc.). Social media has the ability to target with laser precision. On the other hand social media marketing uses content to cultivate trust over time. Traditional marketing forces an opinion on a buyer in hopes that it will stick if repeated frequently enough.

Therefore, given the rapidly changing media structure, the widespread use of social media, especially the Internet is rapidly becoming a new force in broadcast organizations around the world. It has changed the way for them to reach, understand and influence their audiences as never before.

However, there are several concerns about the social media such as on-line safety, privacy, credibility of source and so on. Traditional broadcast media is still playing a strong effect upon the public. We still need these media to disseminate useful information in rural areas.

It is because many rural areas in Liberia do not have Internet connectivity due to a combination of constraints, absence of infrastructures and prohibitive costs. Hence, we still need to use traditional broadcast media such as radio to reach those rural communities.

Inarguably, though the emergence of social media has helped to improve government transparency and accountability. With the rise of social media such as YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, government agencies have joined in the trend by creating social media accounts.

Furthermore, most owners of radio and television stations in Liberia have combined the traditional broadcast media (Radio and television) and social media (Internet), to support their objective of informing, educating and entertaining their audiences.

About the author:
Solomon A. Ware (SAW) is a Liberian journalist and Graduate student International Relations Email/contact: [email protected], 0886584779 or 0777469793 Liberia:

1 COMMENT

  1. Thanks SAW for a timely insightful take, undoubtedly, social media networks are enhancing traditional journalism especially by democratizing access of ordinary people to air views regarding conversations of their countries. However, as you correctly observed, with this opportunity comes misuse and abuse of which the most insidious is the accusation against Russia of influencing voters in the 2016 U.S presidential election via multiple faked Facebook accounts and false stories aimed at particularly disadvantaged sectors of the electorates.

    A lesser example, if I may, was implied in a joint warning issued by the international community at home against “media messages that promote violence” particularly on social networks. And it won’t be a stretch to suggest that US partisan Cable TV news – with little regard for accuracy, fairness, or accountability – which some of our media personalities copy, crystallized the corrosive problems of misuse and abuse in both countries.

    The danger is that the perception has not only made discerning audiences cynical, but also eroded trust in the credibility of their media spaces. Mind you, despite her bottomless wealth and goodwill many well-meaning Americans worry about the contentious polarization and skyrocketing gap between the haves and have-nots. All our institutions should contribute towards reconciliation and stability. In a postwar fragile country such as Liberia, journalists will do well to not ape a whatever sells Cable TV journalistic attitude.

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