The Malta Independent 15 June 2024, Saturday
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News and the digital revolution

Malta Independent Sunday, 4 May 2014, 12:00 Last update: about 11 years ago

Is social media killing journalism?

Social media presents a challenge but also an opportunity to the traditional form of journalism. It provides rivalry in a way, because it gives the news consumer an alternative way of obtaining the news that is often much faster than the speed with which we can check facts and put it out.

But it also provides us with opportunities, it helps us obtain information because it opens up more sources – we can get eye witness accounts from Twitter for instance – and helps us obtain information through citizen journalists in situations where access is restricted.

So I would say there is a melding of the old and the new media and it can be a very fruitful partnership. It also provides traditional broadcasters with a different platform on which to make their material available and means interacting with the news consumer. So I wouldn’t say it’s killing traditional journalism but it’s certainly changed the playing field in which we operate and it is vital that traditional news media responds in a way that will ensure it is still relevant in this digital age.


When CNN was born there was a tendency towards the Americanisation of the news with a built-in bias. Has the rise of rival news channels such as Al Jazeera and Sky News reduced the bias or has it simply added to it?

The parent owner – the owner of a news organisation – being American or British will, to some extent, be operating in the country of origin and so if you’re talking about an American broadcaster like CNN, which has both a domestic and an international division, then the two tend to live off each other to some extent. It’s the same with the BBC with its domestic arm and its world service arm. There will be some degree of overlap, which may suggest a very slight in-built preference for resources to go towards stories that may be of more interest to the UK audience than to a wider audience.

Having said that, the owners are also aware that the global arms of these channels have a global audience that doesn’t just want to see an American (or British) point of view. So they have to provide coverage of global issues from a global perspective and I think that you do find in all major international news broadcasters that they are increasingly using what I call ‘indigenised correspondence’.


You have been in journalism for the past 33 years. Is there a particular aspect that has changed dramatically in journalism and if yes, what is it?

In all my time working in the media, it is the digital revolution. In fact, some commentators have compared it to the printing press revolution in Europe in the 15th and 16th century. The free-flowing of information is better – not worse – and it’s a wonderful thing. Nowadays, it is much harder to hide an atrocity because someone with a mobile phone can take a picture or video of it and it’s posted online.



And you think that the printed media is on its way out?

Yes it is, and we know it. In the UK, in the last seven to eight years, we have seen hundreds of local newspapers fold and even the ones that are still going are struggling because the advertising revenue is going elsewhere, for instance to newspapers on-line.


For this conference you chose quite a vast subject. Why did you decide to tackle these three issues together?

The big global issues – conflict, financial crises and revolutions such as the Arab Spring – have occurred at a time when you have this digital revolution in the media. I chose these three issues because they illustrate a principal that applies to both the big stories and the smaller ones.


You have interviewed a number of high-profile, world-renowned people. First of all, how do you prepare yourself? And, secondly, which was the most difficult interview you’ve conducted and why?

When it comes to preparation, I have been around a long time and have an interest in – a passion for –global issues. I also have a great curiosity but the one thing that concerns me, regardless of who I’m interviewing, is that people have to be held to account.

The global leaders that I have interviewed are supposedly there to serve the ordinary person and I think that if you always use the approach of looking at the pyramid from the bottom up and make sure that the concerns of those millions at the bottom of the pyramid are put to the people at the top, it is very difficult for the person at the top to wriggle out of an answer.


In Malta we have two political stations that presumably balance each other when it comes to news and then we have the Public Broadcasting Service. In your view what should be the role of the PBS?

For me, the role of a PBS, where ever it is in the world and however it is funded, must always be to act as a repository for independent journalism and transparency with no political party agenda. We have to hold our leaders to account – that is a vital function of any broadcaster, especially a state broadcaster, because you are there as a servant of the people to get answers they want and provide them with information.


Zeinab Badawi’s talk was brought to Malta by Leading Talks with the support of the Tumas Fenech Foundation for Education in Journalism, Standard Publications (publishers of The Malta Independent), the Strickland Foundation, the Central Bank of Malta, Agenda Bookshop, MSV Life, Middlesea Insurance plc, the British Council, Valletta Fund Management Ltd, Air Malta plc, Malta International Airport, the Malta Tourism Authority, the Malta Instiute of Accountants, Hilton Malta, Palumbo Malta Super Yachts and Impressions

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