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Future of journalism, world

BY LAMIA ZIA | APRIL 30, 2010 7:30 AM

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The winds of change are occurring in today’s world, with digital technology reshaping the media industry. Back in 2003, when I stepped into a traditional newsroom in Islamabad, Pakistan, it was filled with the clouds of smoke and old-style computers without an Internet facility.

But things have changed. Despite the fact that Pakistan was a late adopter in information technology, Internet has changed everything there.

When I entered the journalism profession, my editors told me to follow the “top to bottom” model of journalism. This meant that journalists held the exclusive control over the information, and the masses were mere receivers of a filtered version of information. When I was saving money to buy an iPod, I never thought such a tiny gadget would change this traditional model of journalism. Today, the credit goes to social media for introducing a new “bottom-up” model of journalism.

Last summer when I was visiting Pakistan, my journalist colleagues looked disoriented because of the rapidly changing world of journalism. A few were very unhappy, because they thought social media are not mature and credible enough to replace the traditional journalism; others welcomed the change, which, according to them, is empowering the masses.

Among the proponents of social media is Sara Ali, a fellow journalist. Ali left journalism and created a blog to express her thoughts, which she could never do while working with a private media organization. She thinks she has come to the right point in her life where she can share her knowledge to benefit the society.

“Why do I need to work in the print media when I can publish my own stories on the blog?” she asked.

She said that the moribund print journalism is surely upsetting and alarming for every journalist. But in order to survive in the print-medium industry, journalists have to learn the new models of journalism.

Now people — either in the United States, Pakistan, or anywhere in the world — have iPods, blogs, Twitter accounts, YouTube accounts, and Facebook accounts to express their thoughts and opinions without fear of getting fired. A full 74 percent of American adults use the Internet, according to a study released earlier this year by Pew Internet and American Life Project.

In some cases, social media have taken the lead to break stories in everyday life. Twitter broke the story of the Hudson River plane crash, for example. So the emergence of social media turned everyone into a journalist, which put print journalism in a difficult situation.

I did not write this article to sum up the debate; rather, it’s an effort to initiate a dialogue on an already existing concern.

Where do we go now from here? What will be the future of newspaper industry, or what shape will journalism take as a profession? How will we define a journalist when everyone is equipped with enough tools to be called a journalist? How do we maintain credibility and accuracy of information?

And what should be the new ethics for social media?

And the most important ones: How will this new world of social media be helpful to bridge the divide between the West and the non-Western world? How can it make this world a better place?

Lamia Zia, a freelance journalist, worked in print and broadcast journalism in Pakistan and now writes a regular guest column for The Daily Iowan.

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