In Today’s Media Landscape, We Are All Witnesses
[Editor's note: This post was written by Jayanthi Daniel, Content and UX Specialist, Africa.com.]
The landscape of media has changed so much over the past 20 years that for even the most seasoned journalists, it’s almost unrecognizable.
Twenty years ago, how did we get our news? How did we hear about the important events of the day? How did we even know that the important events of the day were the ones that all of the world needed to know about?
For many journalists —newspapermen and women, television anchors under make-up and heavy lighting — the media world in 1990 was a small one. Anyone interested in the news read newspapers or magazines. Those without time to read during the day caught up with evening news reports on television. It was, amazingly, a golden age in television and print journalism.
Now, with the advent of online news and content, the world has drastically changed. Newspapers these days aren’t fat with advertisements; they’re conducting rounds of layoffs. Instead of a treasured evening news hour, dozens of channels devote their airtime to 24-hours of what’s now called the “news cycle.” Is there even enough news to sustain that amount of time? Some would say no, pointing to the increasingly blurred line between “news” and “entertainment."
Others, though, might say that there is enough news — just not the kind of news that television channels are looking for. There’s news outside of what television, newspapers, and magazines share these days; it’s the kind of news that gumshoe citizen reporters, like those from Sahara Reporters, engage with.
This kind of local (or hyper-local) news tends to be of interest only to a select few, a group of individuals living in one country, or even a town. But, as big-time journalists may have forgotten: news begins from the ground up. Events that take place in a small town may have the power to resonate to a greater population. Without citizen reporters, these kinds of events may be ignored or forgotten. What would the Tunisian revolution have been without people watching the events of Sidi Bouzid and Mohamed Bouazizi, reporting on them, and inciting a necessary change in regime through the exchange of information?
In the changed media landscape, news and information from people on the ground is pushing journalism into a new, powerful direction. Journalism today is moving beyond brand and beyond traditional form down to the ground level. The news is sometimes ragged, incomplete, or unsophisticated; but these days, it’s a necessary form of reporting. Without it, the 24-hour news cycles might not be able to survive.