The Future of the Press model in the rise of Social Media

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Photo Credit: INTERACT

The political landscape has changed significantly in Jamaica in the past couple of years. Social media and digital marketing in general have helped to transform it, as politicians use it as a tool to engage their voters. We saw this in the last general election. JLP was very targeted in its approach, using online digital ads to reach female voters between the ages of 24-35 years old and mobilizing its MPs to use their social media accounts to inform and participate with their audiences.

As social media continues to increase in popularity, so too will politicians using it as a direct line to the public. Politicians can get insight through comments, likes and even debates about what matters to voters. This can dictate strategy and the tailoring of messages, as politicians become more aware of what is important to the masses.

They can bypass the media, as Trump did in the US election, (using half of his ad budget on digital) and continues to do so before his inauguration.

Trump has Influence of Over 17 million

He uses Twitter as a direct line to his now 17 million followers, side-stepping traditional media, sharing his unfiltered personal views. His influence is such that traditional media comments on his every tweet, with bated breath. Instead of the news reporting their views on a topic as given to them with privilege (either through press release or press conference), they are now forced to share the news direct from the source and then try to make sense of it.

Jamaica’s Prime Minister, Andrew Holness and many other heads of state, use social media to converse with their followers. The PAJ’s desire to have more access to the Prime Minister through more press conferences, is their way of making sure that they maintain access to this privilege.

To imply that the press is asking hard-hitting questions that only they are capable of asking, is negating the opinions of the public, who are the same ones that the press is asking the questions on behalf of.

The Media got it wrong in the US election

And journalists are biased most times, even if they try not to be. When I think of the weeks I watched CNN and witnessed numerous conversations, polls and opinions in favour of Clinton’s win—only to be side lined when Trump won. Boy did the media get it wrong! They were so busy trying to scandalize Trump that they failed to listen to the public’s views and report what they found. Isn’t that after all what the press is for?

Andrew Holness’s team continues to use social media as a way to keep the public informed. It is a more calculated form of communication than Trump, as it should be, but it gives you an insight as to how social media is affecting the political landscape in Jamaica. If Andrew Holness can send a Facebook post to his over 190,000 fans and get a response in real-time over going through traditional media sources that may or may not print his story, why should he?

Integrated Approach is still Best

As a communications practitioner, I say integrated approach is still the best way to reach your audience. Using traditional media channels in conjunction with social media and PR is still important to building awareness. Having your news story told by a reputable, respected news source only gives it strength and notoriety. And this I strongly believe, read my article on “Why Traditional Media still Matters” here.

But as someone who saw first-hand how biased the media can be, I say that social media will force the press to re-evaluate their model for how they approach reporting. News will have to become much more objective and integrated with social media. The future of the press relies on it.

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5 thoughts on “The Future of the Press model in the rise of Social Media

  1. Hi Kasi

    I support your view point and believe in the integrated approach as the best strategy.

    Though PM Holness has a large online base and can broadcast messages to same. He may never feel the need to respond directly to any of my questions (via twitter or facebook), as important as I think they may be.

    This is where I believe the press is needed as it will force politicians to answer / respond to issues than an average / individual social media user that “follows” the PM may not be able to.

    1. Nic, although I don’t know him personally, I think that the PM does pay attention to his reputation online and listens to his team’s opinions on these matters. Although he may not read every tweet or facebook comment, he can get great insight from what people are saying online. Most politicians and heads of state use social media to gain insight, and as I said, it helps to target messaging.
      The press is great, they have at times tried to twist the news to represent their own agenda. Going forward, the press really needs to be careful about how they are representing the public when it comes to reporting on important matters.

  2. I agree with you Kesi! A combination of different communication tools is needed, including regular press conferences (or perhaps the PM could be present at more post Cabinet press briefings). Face to face Q&A is always good. Having said that, both traditional and social media are evolving so fast that things may change in the future – and perhaps sooner than we think.

    1. Emma, honestly, I think even the idea of press conferences will evolve. Although, asking pertinent questions is valuable to gaining the full story on important matters, the idea of reporting the news based on a journalist’s valuable opinion will change. Not sure how it will but social media will definitely be a part of that evolution.

  3. If I luv this article one more time! 😆

    It’s almost like you were eavesdropping on my private rants and distilled it nicely in this awesome article.

    I have a lot to say on this subject and have also been watching this media transition closely.

    I think you nailed it with many of the relevant issues and I would just like to add something that I’ve come to realize is almost universally factual… every and any system unsupervised and unmaintained, WILL breakdown… and I believe that in our holistic democratic system we’ve had an invisible gap in the necessary checks and balances that keeps the media… well, in check! I believe that the US elections and many other local issues involving politicians and social media of late have thrust into the light some underlying issues that woefully needed to be addressed head-on.

    There are so many areas where a lot of the mainstream media have all but abandoned their prime directive and have championed causes and swayed topics and events, not on behalf of the public, ordinary citizens.. but at the behest of their bosses, and producers and sadly… those that have power, money and influence.. the HAVES.

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