It is a fact that digital media is revolutionising the way people obtain information. The shift from a media audience who consume their news and information via the old, private media outlets to an increasingly tech-savy, net-addicted public is only becoming more evident. Perhaps the most exciting development resulting from the ‘digital revolution’, however, is the potential it holds for democratising communication. The internet offers great gifts of participation, inclusiveness and even control of the news agenda for anyone who wishes to utilise outlets such as blogs, discussion boards, comment pages, video and picture sharing sites and so on. The flow of information, once controlled by few in privileged and exclusive positions, has most definitely been disrupted; the rise of citizen journalism has allowed people to communicate their own stories to a global audience without the permission of the media middlemen. With the president of CNN last week describing facebook as the networks biggest current competition, without a mention of previous rival broadcasters FOX news, the power potential of your average joe blogger is really emphasised.
One great example of this rise of public communication power is a website I came across last week- Global Voices Online. In their own words the contributors describe their main goal as being to “readdress some of the inequities in media attention by leveraging the power of citizens’ media, at a time when international English-language media ignores many things that are important to large numbers of the world’s citizens.” Aiming to “aggravate, curate and amplify” debates and discussions on important issues from around the world, stories are published on the site that would often be left out of the mainstream media agenda, often from a firsthand perspective.
One article I read on the website was about the aftermath of the earthquake in Chile last month, which highlighted the lack of help given to many indigenous communities who were affected, alongside stressing the Chilean and global media’s overall ignorance of their situation. The reporter goes on to outline how communities such as Mapuche were, however, able to utilise social media to communicate their situations. In addition to this, people in the wider public who recognised the lack of reporting on large groups of the affected Chileans were able to use their own social media tools such as twitter as a way of obtaining information not readily supplied by the mainstream media. I feel that the website overall, and this particular article, are evidence of an exciting change happening in the dynamics of communication and news exchange, on a global scale.
The new digital democracy means anyone with access to the technology can become a journalist-or a public communicator or PR practitioner for that matter- with access to the cyber world stage, something we should all take advantage of and not feel threatened by Mr CNN!