The panel discussion entitled “Media in times of political and social change. Are legacy media still relevant?” took place on 10 November 2011. Chair, Trevor Ncube, asked tricky questions about what mobile phones mean for the media and whether or not traditional media see social media as a threat or as an opportunity.
Here’s a summary of what the panellists had to say:
Emna Ben Jemaa, Tunisian journalist and blogger
Ben Jemaa has stopped writing in newspapers because she finds social media is more efficient. In response to Ncube’s question, she said that the only danger is if traditional journalists regard the social media as a threat.
“The new journalist should be a writer, a photographer and always be present on social networks. Social networks should be like having a pen,” said Ben Jemaa.
She concluded by saying that someone on Facebook will never replace a journalist, because journalists have ethics.
Said Laswad, Tripoli Post
Social media played a major role in overthrowing Gaddafi, Libya’s dictator. According to Laswad, the Gaddafi regime was aware that something was going to happen, but because of the nature of the communication, they could not control it. This lead to the revolt that involved people who were more than 1200 kilometres away from each other. It was social media that started the ball rolling.
The only traditional media present at the time of the revolution were small newspapers owned by the regime and thus they supported the regime.
“Because of the weakness of traditional media in Libya, the social media will probably take over,” concluded Laswad.
Kamel Labidi, Tunisian Media Regulator INRIC
Labidi, who also attributes the overthrow of another dictator, Tunisia’s Ben Ali, largely to social media, said that traditional media is starting to improve. However, he pointed out that “it is difficult for traditional media to do a better job because for decades traditional media has been muzzled and its journalists turned into tools of propaganda”.
Labidi encouraged journalists to see social media as an opportunity for traditional media journalists to do a better job, by eliciting information from citizen journalists. However, he insisted that journalists need to be provided with better training in order to be able to do this.
Although the social media played an important role in Tunisia, the traditional media remains popular due to the high illiteracy rate in the country.
Kabiru Yusuf, CEO Daily Trust Nigeria
Yusuf said that his company is dealing with the onslaught of social media by improving their digital platforms and making them attractive to advertisers. A decline in print media readership is compensated by digital audiences.
“We are embracing social media, we can’t resist,” said Yusuf.
Omar Belhouchet, Directeur de Publication El Watan Algeria
In the past, traditional media in Algeria was restrained by the government, but now they have gained some legitimacy due to their resistance towards the government.
Until the revolution in Tunisia, the internet and social media in Algeria were not well developed at all. Now the print media has increased and newspaper circulation is high, and more investigative journalism takes place.
Belhouchet emphasized that training of journalists is important for quality reporting. “We believe that going into the villages and the back world of our country brings out the realities of our people and this is quality journalism.”
Kim Norgaard, CNN Africa Bureau Chief
“Why do people still come to CNN when there’s so much information available?” asked Norgaard. He answer was that CNN is the network that people can trust and that they would not have to sift through piles of information before finding valuable or useful information.
CNN has developed iReporter in order to incorporate social media, and more than 2.4 billion people world wide have tapped into it to send stories and photos. If there’s a big story, CNN will tap into it and vet it with journalistic standards.
Story by Gabriela Falanga