New media challenges traditional models of news

– To hell with old news, says Professor John Downing. New models of disseminating information challenge old monopolies and strengthen both international and local news reporting.

Professors Terhi Rantanen (LSE) and John Downing (Southern Illinois University) discussed the future of news and its present state at the News in Crisis?-conference organised by the Communication Research Centre at the University of Helsinki.

According to Rantanen the news models are in transition, moving away from old concepts while embracing new models of transmitting information.

– News in the past set the time; you could recognise news by the way news articles always referred to a time and place. Now the news narrative has changed, as references to time have become obsolete when reporting to a global audience.

With the temporality aspect lost old monopolies have also been broken up by the new media.

– One no longer has to wait until the 9 o’clock news. News is all the time; there is no time without news. Wherever we go, news is there, says Rantanen.

Downing sees the loss of media monopolies as a good development.

– What is the great moment of “old news” that we have in mind? A huge amount of what is in the news is straight from public relations sources. New media has created other models of creating news.

Downing lists independent media centres as one example. They have attempted to challenge social injustice through their news, which according to Downing hasn’t been the “old news” agenda historically.

News overflow

With the new media models of information dissemination the balance between the supply and demand of news has been tilted, creating a situation where there is an oversupply of news.

– Earlier you wanted to buy news from the newsboys on the street, but today you run away from the newspaper freebies being dealt at every corner, says Rantanen.

But at the same time as we have all the news from faraway places we could possibly wish for, local news is often lacking.

– Traditionally the news sources have been very close to official sources, which means the scope is often national or international. We know better what is happening internationally than what is happening locally, says Rantanen.

This is where the new media comes in. Since the earthquake in Japan there has been a constant demand of local information, and social media has been an irreplaceable aid in supplying the people with the information they need. The old media gives the large picture, but bloggers can provide detailed and highly local information.

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Text: Jockum Hildén

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