The advent of the social media, also known as the new media, has opened new vistas in journalism practice with some perceiving it as a blessing to the profession while other see it as the bane of modern journalism. In this report, KEHINDE OSASONA examines the arguments for and against as presented in recent media stakeholder’s forums.
The emergence of the social media took the traditional media in Nigeria by storm even as most have continued to battle with adjusting to the new trend.
This is as the trend has led to the debut of several on line media as well as a rise in citizen’s journalism and with it the challenge of adherence to ethics of the journalism profession and regulation.
Media practitioners and stakeholders in the journalism profession have attributed the deterioration of media practice in the country to abuse of the social media as well as that the digital technologies employed by the social media were threats to the media space.
While some others practitioners believe that social media has offered increased access to content and has shifted the way journalists do their jobs, another school of thought insist that the ‘fake news’ phenomenon common in the social media has made reporting and journalism practice as a whole more challenging.
Concerns over social media
Speaking at the celebration of the 160th year of journalism in Abeokuta, Ogun state, the Ogun state Governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun, bemoaned the rise of malicious and deliberate misinformation by some unethical social media users.
Governor Abiodun, who spoke on the theme: Re-inventing the practice of journalism in Nigeria with emphasis on the influence of the social media, said the unethical social media users put the information superhighway to wrong uses by targeting other Nigerians, both highly and lowly placed, for character assassination and portray people in bad light.
He said, “We have to find a win-win situation. The idea is not to gag the media in any form or manner, but to ensure that the media is held responsible for carrying out their responsibility; and of course, the issue of death penalty is not called for.
“The deliberate misinformation on people by some unscrupulous elements has prompted reactions from some quarters which have made people pushed for death penalties for people found guilty of deliberately misinforming the people.
“This has prompted a lot of reactions from different quarters with some even calling for death penalties for people who are found guilty of what has now become popularly referred to as the ‘hate speech’.
“Veteran journalists should use this celebration to appraise the influence of the social media on journalism practice.
“As elders, older journalists should play their role by monitoring the activities of the younger professionals, this will go a long way in repositioning the pen pushers as truly the fourth estate of the realm in the democratic system.
“Also, members of the noble profession should always be on their guard against forces that seek to use them for their selfish interests and should equally distance themselves from partisanship.
“It is therefore imperative that journalists should always be on guard against forces that seek to take advantage of the formidable power of the profession for their selfish aims.
“It has even become more important that the profession detach itself from partisanship, ensure objectivity in reportage and inculcate investigative journalism.
“One major avenue of achieving these is for veterans in the pen pushing profession to ensure that professionalism and unity among professionals and use the profession as a catalyst for continued human capital development, strive for continued human capital development and strive for continued professional development so as to keep abreast of best global practices in the industry.”
Like social media, like soft sell
Toeing the same lane, the former Governor of Ogun state, Chief Segun Osoba, who is also a journalist, enjoined practitioners at the event on the need to update themselves with modern trends in the industry and use latest technologies in carrying out their duties.
Osoba, who likened the social media to soft sell magazines which thrives on controversies, called on journalists to be dedicated, committed, fearless like those before them in order to be able to use social media to change the narratives.
“I want to appeal to my colleagues to imbibe modern technology as any journalist who is not vast in the use of these equipment is not a journalist. We must re- orientate ourselves in the area of newsprint as the old style is dead,” he said.
Journalism at risk
On his part, former Minister for Youths and Sports, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, who is also a journalist, has expressed his fears on survival of journalism as a profession.
Abdullahi, who was guest speaker at the induction of the President, executive and fellows of the Fourth Estate Professional Society (FPS) with the theme: Sustaining Media In Time Of Economic Challenge, penultimate week in Ilorin, Kwara state, expressed worry over the rising space occupied by social media without recourse to ethical standards.
The former minister charged media practitioners to do all within their power to ensure the survival of journalism.
He noted that rising space occupied by social media without recourse to ethical standards was killing the noble profession.
According to him, during the first year of journalism training, ethics and law of journalism was the core courses taught in institutions of learning, regretting however that today things have changed to the detriment of the profession.
He said, “Professionals should rise to ensure that freedom of expression is not mortgaged as well as ensuring that technology does not kill professional codes and ethics.
“Today, many unemployed youths with smart phones claim to be journalists post anything on their walls, ignoring national security.”
Traditional media’ll experience more changes
For an online journalist, Mayowa Ogundele, the worldwide web evolves daily; so does the social media, hence the traditional media would yet experience even more changes in times to come.
He said, “The integration of social media in news gathering and delivery has enabled journalists to work in a capacity that totally erases the restrictions of distance. Today, interviews are conducted via email correspondence, Twitter conversations, Skype and video chats.
“With the rise in social media usage, Nigerian youths, who scarcely subscribed to the print media, have now cultivated a healthy habit of keeping abreast of events in the country.
“Social media has impacted Nigerian journalism in the area of reporting as new features i-reports which allows individuals to report events in real time in any case where an official correspondent is not on ground.
“The consistent and goal-driven use of social media has filled the interactive and investigative vacuum found in the traditional media in Nigeria and the entire world. Hitherto this new age of journalism, reporters were only able to practice the time-sensitive profession within a certain constrained environment which permitted the Nigerian journalist to find facts from physically available sources.”