Yes! The power of Media is in common man’s hand. You and me have the power and wherewithal to put out facts as it were. Gone are the days when rich man’s views becomes the News. Ever since culture of large scale corporatization of media happened, it was money bags who controlled what a consumer has on offer.
Personally, I feel the shift began during the Iranian Elections of June 2009. With a plethora of options, an User had the power of generating contents, textual, visual or aural and with Social Media, there was no restrictions on propagation. From Editors, a common man was able to dictate what made or broke the news – be it in Print, Visual or even Radio. Social Media also enabled consumers to filter the contents of interest. They were not forced to the filters applied by money bag controlled Editors. Slowly but surely Main stream media had no choice but to go interactive and involve the audiences for their contents. Technology also ensured the ability to interact and network by a large factor as compared to the earlier days.
To borrow from New York academic and blogger Jeff Jarvis ‘the witnesses are taking over the news – there is a visible and historic shift of control from traditional news organisations to the audience themselves”
Sociologist William Dutton of the Oxford Internet Institute (OII) has termed these developments the emergence of the ‘Fifth Estate’. Highly ‘Networked individuals’ (helped by new platforms like social networking and messaging) can move across, undermine and go beyond the boundaries of existing institutions.
Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, Blogs & other such such Social Media platforms have become unmediated sources of news. Most importantly, these Social Media Platforms are challenging and acting as a Check on the Traditional Media. As someone said “Social media sites are the new towns, or cities or neighborhood bars, the places where the public gather and discuss things” This in effect means, contents can be localized, it can be customized based on the interests or even shared between different networks. Apart from the obvious benefits, Social Media also helps to extend life of stories that goes out of sight and mind in traditional medium with added supplementary contents in real time.
The pitfalls as in any other medium do exist here too. Being an uncurated medium and in the era of Screenshots, the medium is prone for misuse. Major damage can be done before Consumer discretion is applied. Extending the bar comparison, like how one wouldn’t take a conversation from the neighbourhood bar and broadcast or consume it as the truth, some amount of checking and verification is to be exercised by the consumers. Thankfully, unlike in the traditional media there is no OMERTA code in operation – it is almost a cinch that there are another bunch of SM enthusiasts who would expose.
To summarize, Social Media is a medium here to stay and grow, since a good deal of self regulation happens within the medium, unlike in the traditional media. We don’t often read or watch report of blatantly erroneous reportage of one traditional media by another traditional media.