MANILA, Philippines – Conversations with faceless strangers from different parts of the world. Instant celebrity status through viral video and memes. This very article you’re reading right now. What do these 3 have in common? All of them are powered by new media.
With developments in software and hardware technology, the period referred to as the “advent” of digital communication has perhaps reached its peak. New media has found its way into the daily lives of the people who consume it.
So much so that new media has descended on, arguably, the “oldest” form of media known to man – journalism. Not only are people now reading news websites instead of the daily paper, even media practitioners themselves are publishing their articles online.
“New media, especially social media, makes journalism more participative and democratic,” said blogger Tonyo Cruz, one of the organizers of Social Media Day Philippines. “There are no more captive audiences. We get instant reactions right ahead.”
Cruz added that the digital environment empowers the ordinary citizen to share his or her own version of the news. According to him, the Internet makes it possible for anyone to be a journalist, or a columnist even, thus breaking the “monopoly of information” that was once prevalent.
With great power
But this freedom comes with great power. And, as our friendly neighborhood superhero likes to point out, with great power comes great responsibility.
In an interview with Rappler, new media professor Daphne Tolentino-Canlas from the UP College of Mass Communication said that while she lauds the free expression that cyberspace provides, there are still some ethical guidelines to follow.
“The beauty of this environment is that everything, even identity, is fluid, and we are free to experiment,” Canlas said. “However, labels and designations of this sort (journalist, etc.) are quite loaded, in my view, and for me, they come with some responsibilities.”
Such responsibilities are dictated by the ways of the more traditional forms of press publications. According to Canlas, the values of accuracy and fairness, among others, still “form the core” of any journalistic report, whether they are read on newsprint, or on a digital tablet.
She stressed that just like any other industry, a news company should craft its own code of ethics, and not let competition hurt the priority it gives to balanced and fact-checked news.
In the end, Canlas said that when it comes to journalism, the only difference between online and offline reporting is the reporter himself. The ethics of a news article is only as good as the ethics of the author.
“What I feel is important is that those who practice journalism in any form should know that there are heavy implications on the kind of content they produce,” added Canlas. “They must be ready to abide by certain standards that have helped define this discipline for many generations.”
Traditional principles remain
What exactly are these standards?
In a forum held last week entitled, “New Media, New Journalism: The impact of Web 2.0 and beyond on the News Media,” Rappler editor-at-large Marites Dañguilan-Vitug said that while the digital arena is novel in proliferating knowledge, the old journalistic principles should “remain part of [online journalists’] DNA.”
For instance, accuracy and verification should be prioritized over speed and sensation. Correcting mistakes should be done as quickly as possible, with honesty always visible through disclaimers.
Fairness and impartiality are a must. There must be no vested interests in government and business, as well as political parties. Corruption is a no-no in any journalistic publication, therefore relationships between the subject of a report and the reporter should always be disclosed.
According to Vitug, all these must be considered as we are currently in a “hybrid generation” where news reporting goes beyond the printed pages of the newspaper. To this, the digital and traditional means should not try to outdo each other, but complement one another.
“We are still in an age of transition,” said Vitug. “I believe we are in an age of hybrid, where professional and amateur journalists co-exist to bring the news. I believe in the hybrid. I believe it’s up to us to use what’s best in the old and new media.” – Rappler.com