May 16, 2011

New media can't replace traditional media

Our understanding of the world occurs largely through information presented by the mass media. Whether or not we like it, news broadcasts and newspapers shape how we perceive the world and our place in that world.

In an age of changing digital technologies, however, media are undergoing a transformation, often under the auspices of "new media." New media are defined by their ability to cede journalistic authority to a broader population and alter the ways in which we experience media. Facebook, Twitter and WordPress can be considered forms of new media, and they are only the beginning.

Twitter and Facebook are excellent sources for real-time news updates, especially involving international news topics such as the Egyptian revolution in February.

The analytical depth of these forms is limited, however, and credibility is often an issue when anyone can tweet. Blogs can give in-depth analysis and create space for discussion, but they serve as reliable sources only if users understand they are getting just one perspective.

And maybe that's just it.

New media offer more variety to our experience of the news. They have the potential to give us a more holistic perspective about a current event and enable many voices to offer their own opinion.

Rather than replace print and broadcast media, however, new media must be used in tandem with traditional media for them to change the media landscape. We cannot rely on one or the other to give us the whole picture; instead we must find a balance.

This means following an issue on Twitter, while also reading about it in newspapers and on blogs and still tuning into TV news broadcasts. New and traditional media are not antagonisms to one another, but complements that together are redefining mass media.

John Perkins


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