Print Edition - 2014-11-28  |  Editorial

Social adaptation

  • As Nepali internet users rise, traditional media will need to change its ways
Social adaptation

Nov 27, 2014-The news landscape is rapidly changing. Newspapers, once the vaunted guardians and disseminators of information, are quickly being edged out by the social media upstarts of Facebook and Twitter. Increasingly, traditional media, which now includes newspapers, the radio, and even television, are less likely the first to break news. ‘Breaking news’ now often features first on Facebook and Twitter. Updated swiftly from mobile devices in a matter of seconds, such social media chatter have the potential to spread far and wide in a span of minutes.

All of this has been evident in the way politicians have been utilising social media. The best example of a social media-savvy politician is India’s Narendra Modi, who was in Kathmandu this week for the 18th Saarc Summit. From the moment he landed at Tribhuvan International Airport, Twitter accounts belonging Modi and the Indian Prime Minister’s Office began to unleash a series of updates, documenting in minute detail his activities during the Summit, including who all he was meeting. Along with Modi, Bhutanese Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani too were active, commenting on the Summit and a host of bilateral meetings. While Nepali Prime Minister Sushil Koirala’s Twitter account has been idle since February, various ministers and politicians, including former prime minister Baburam Bhattarai and Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat, followed up with periodic commentary.

Yet, social media, a relatively new phenomenon, has some inherent drawbacks. It still lacks the ethos of the media—credibility and accountability. As such, social media has yet to prove itself as a credible messenger. It can be propagandist, as has been the case in the past with our own politicians and Modi too, or worse, defamatory and malicious. Traditional media still offers readers a relatively objective third-person viewpoint and relies on being held accountable. But in a changing digital world, traditional media will have to keep up with new frontiers. It needs to offer readers information that cannot be gleaned through 140-character tweets. This can come in the form of in-depth reporting, expert analysis, or exclusive content.

There are ways in which traditional media can make use of what social media does so well. Increasingly, social media is first on the scene, so traditional media can use it to source stories and for news-gathering. Facts can then be verified before being published. Social media is also a good tool for interaction, providing ample opportunities for journalists to consider new angles and readers with a more interactive update on the letters page. It can also be vital in analysing the kind of stories that spread furiously or, in internet parlance, ‘go viral’. Facebook’s shares and Twitter’s retweets are really just word-of-mouth endorsements cloaked in a digital sheen. As the number of mobile phone and internet users continues to increase exponentially in Nepal, it will become all the more imperative for traditional Nepali media to adapt.

Published: 28-11-2014 09:19

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