Who’s Afraid of Online Journalists? by Nalaka Gunawardene - SLPI 7 Sep 2011


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Presentation made at a National Conference on Media Self-Regulation organised by the Sri Lanka Press Institute (SLPI) in Colombo on 7 Sep 2011. I was one of two speakers during their session on online media, which was unfortunately titled 'The Internet: A License to Slander'. It showed a complete lack of understanding of the new and online media by the organisers who are a group of very traditional print media editors and publishers.

I also wasn’t impressed by the quality of moderation or discussion. A quick show of hands in the 50+ audience revealed there were half a dozen regular bloggers (including myself) and just two regular tweeters (including myself) among us. It wasn’t the right mix to discuss this topic – but then, serious online journalists and activists have better things to do than attend this kind of offline gatherings!

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Who’s Afraid of Online Journalists? by Nalaka Gunawardene - SLPI 7 Sep 2011

  1. 1. Who’s Afraid of Online Journalists? Nalaka Gunawardene Columnist & Blogger www.nalakagunawardene.com Presentation to National Conference on Media Self-Regulation @Sri Lanka Press Institute (SLPI) Colombo: 7 Sep 2011
  2. 2. I disagree with your topic! <ul><li>THE INTERNET: A LICENSE TO SLANDER </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Highly presumptuous! </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Judgemental & Dismissive! </li></ul></ul><ul><li>SLPI as an alliance of mainstream print media should be more respectful of other competing media platforms! </li></ul><ul><li>Online journalists could just as easily say: </li></ul><ul><li>MAINSTREAM MEDIA (MSM): A LICENSE TO BLUNDER??? </li></ul>
  3. 3. I say so as… <ul><li>Someone with 25 yrs of MSM (print, radio, TV) connections </li></ul><ul><li>One with weekly output in 2 broadsheet newspapers ( Ravaya, Daily News ) </li></ul><ul><li>New media watcher & commentator since 1996 (commercial Internet started) </li></ul><ul><li>Blogger since early 2007 </li></ul><ul><li>Tweeter since mid 2009 </li></ul><ul><li>A ‘Digital Immigrant’ </li></ul><ul><li>With “a foot in both graves”…! </li></ul>
  4. 4. <ul><li>I feel as if I’m on both sides of this divide! </li></ul>
  5. 5. Coverage Today… <ul><li>Internet: what numbers? </li></ul><ul><li>Internet & media: what nexus? </li></ul><ul><li>What types of regulation/control online? </li></ul><ul><li>Is self regulation possible online? </li></ul><ul><li>Is it necessary & desirable? </li></ul><ul><li>Who should advocate SR methods and ways forward? </li></ul>
  6. 6. How MANY online in SL? <ul><li>TRCSL data: </li></ul><ul><li>Sri Lanka, end 2010: </li></ul><ul><li>Mobile phone subscribers: 17.34 mil </li></ul><ul><li>Fixed phone subscribers: 3.58 mil </li></ul><ul><li>“ Internet & Email Subscribers”: 280,000 </li></ul><ul><li>0.014 % of population </li></ul><ul><li>Wireless Intelligence : </li></ul><ul><li>Sri Lanka, end 2010: </li></ul><ul><li>1,971,018 mobile broadband users </li></ul><ul><li>213,000 fixed broadband users </li></ul><ul><li>Total: 2,184,018 </li></ul><ul><li>10% of population </li></ul>So who has got it right? What do we use?
  7. 7. Who IS publishing online? <ul><li>In THEORY, at least: </li></ul><ul><li>Anybody can be a reporter, commentator, analyst </li></ul><ul><li>Anybody can be an editor or publisher: no gatekeeper! </li></ul><ul><li>Only tools needed: web connected PC/smartphone </li></ul><ul><li>No longer passive consumers of mainstream media (MSM)! </li></ul>
  8. 8. In practice: Online journalism… <ul><li>Institutionalised: </li></ul><ul><li>MSM print/broadcast adding online outlet/s </li></ul><ul><li>Some MSM going entirely online </li></ul><ul><li>MSM+Online hybrids </li></ul><ul><li>Entirely online news and/or opinion websites that are not rooted in any MSM </li></ul><ul><li>Other variations </li></ul><ul><li>Individual: </li></ul><ul><li>Single bloggers </li></ul><ul><li>Group bloggers </li></ul><ul><li>Social media activists using Twitter, Facebook or other tools in public interest </li></ul><ul><li>Blog syndicators and aggregators </li></ul><ul><li>LOTS of private or bilateral exchanges </li></ul>
  9. 9. Who IS a journalist today? <ul><li>Only those accredited by Dept of Info, govt of Sri Lanka? (leaves out some in MSM!) </li></ul><ul><li>All those engaged in publishing on public platforms, sharing info and/or opinions on matters of current, public interest? </li></ul><ul><li>Institutional affiliations matter less today </li></ul><ul><li>Look at output – and influence </li></ul><ul><li>All conversations don’t have to be OFFICIAL! (Thank goodness they aren’t!) </li></ul>
  10. 10. Some limits apply… <ul><li>“ I fail to see how filming the cat makes you a citizen journalist.” </li></ul>
  11. 11. Online content’s influence… <ul><li>Well beyond 10% population who access web direct </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Ripple effects’ through coverage in MSM + gossip! </li></ul><ul><li>Real world repercussions of controversial virtual content </li></ul><ul><li>Sinhala blogosphere’s rapid evolution (maybe Tamil too?) </li></ul><ul><li>Social Media explosion! </li></ul>
  12. 12. Social Media’s rise
  13. 13. How do you engage SM?
  14. 14. Where do we draw the line? <ul><li>A practical suggestion for media activists: </li></ul><ul><li>Leave out strictly private exchanges in closed spaces (e.g. most of Facebook!) </li></ul><ul><li>Focus instead on: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Expressions on public platforms online </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Outlets with sufficient ‘eyeballs’/visitors </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Covering issues of public interest </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Explore how & where more responsible, ethical conduct can be promoted in these online activities </li></ul>
  15. 15. MSM self-reg model: Press Complaints Commission of SL <ul><li>Independent body set up by newspaper publishers, editors & media freedom activists (as a counter to state regulation) </li></ul><ul><li>Entertains complaints on editorial content </li></ul><ul><li>Seeks to resolve disputes through conciliation, mediation or arbitration (trying to avoid litigation) </li></ul><ul><li>Advocates Right of Reply, responsible editorial conduct by participating publishers </li></ul><ul><li>Source: http://www.pccsl.lk/about_overview.php </li></ul>
  16. 16. PCCSL participation (Sep 2011) <ul><li>Most, but not all newspapers in SL </li></ul><ul><li>Not a single radio station/channel </li></ul><ul><li>Not a single TV station/network </li></ul><ul><li>No online media organisation </li></ul><ul><li>YOUR NEXT PRIORITY : </li></ul><ul><li>Get rest of MSM to sign up first! </li></ul><ul><li>THEN: Reflect whether PCCSL has vision, capacity & legitimacy to engage entirely online media covering news & current aff.! </li></ul>
  17. 17. Do MSM/SR models apply online? <ul><li>“ Many people blog precisely because they feel that the press does not self-regulate effectively: in a sense they are competing with the PCC (UK)…It has a bad reputation – to stand any chance of attracting bloggers, it would have to give them a genuine voice and incorporate many of the ethical concerns that they have about journalism. I don’t see that happening…” </li></ul><ul><li>– Paul Bradshaw, May 2011 </li></ul><ul><li>http://onlinejournalismblog.com/2011/05/21/faq-self-regulation-of-online-media/ </li></ul>
  18. 19. But we DO need ethical framework! <ul><li>“Just as journalism is too important to be left solely to full-time, salaried journalists, citizen journalism is too important to be left simply to irresponsible individuals with internet access who may have opinions (and spare time) without substance or clarity to make those opinions count.” </li></ul><ul><li>– Nalaka Gunawardene , comment at: </li></ul><ul><li>http://indi.ca/2009/06/bad-journalism-in-huffington-post/ [June 2009] </li></ul>
  19. 20. How 2 get there: Practical issues… <ul><li>Online media authentication/accreditation: With whom? On what terms? </li></ul><ul><li>Who frames & adopts ethical framework? </li></ul><ul><li>Who monitors compliance? </li></ul><ul><li>What grievance mechanism, if any? </li></ul><ul><li>Who can adjudicate – and how? </li></ul><ul><li>Will such decisions be accepted by all/most practitioners? </li></ul><ul><li>If not, how much worse is the alternative? </li></ul>
  20. 21. Approaches of Internet Filtering http://opennet.net/about-filtering Source: Within same jurisdiction, legal demands to web host companies to remove content deemed offensive Take-down Search engine operators cooperate with govt to remove search listings, making it more difficult to find sites. Search result removals Block access to specific web pages, domains, or IP addresses: most frequently used where direct jurisdiction or control over websites is beyond the reach of authorities. Technical blocking
  21. 23. <ul><li>Induced self-censorship: </li></ul><ul><li>A common and effective strategy to limit exposure to Internet content by encouraging self-censorship both in browsing habits and in choosing content to post online. </li></ul><ul><li>May take place through the threat of legal action, the promotion of social norms, or informal methods of intimidation. </li></ul><ul><li>http://opennet.net/about-filtering </li></ul>Approaches of Internet Filtering - 2
  22. 24. <ul><li>Can state or self-regulating body insist everyone to express online with their real/single ID? </li></ul><ul><li>Is that enforceable in practice? </li></ul><ul><li>Engendering trust vs. protecting sources </li></ul><ul><li>Arguments on both sides: debate still raging… </li></ul>
  23. 25. Identified OR Anonymous? <ul><li>Infographic from Namesake.com </li></ul>
  24. 26. Ideal vs. Pragmatic? <ul><li>Online Transparency </li></ul><ul><li>Online Anonymity </li></ul>Infographic from Namesake.com
  25. 28. Anonymous…and opinionated!
  26. 29. Summing up… <ul><li>Self-regulation for online, public content: nice in theory, very hard in practice! </li></ul><ul><li>Tread very carefully as web users don’t like rules; prefer anarchy </li></ul><ul><li>Innovation & enterprise needs chaos! </li></ul><ul><li>Work with & through trusted online content creators: don’t impose MSM mindset </li></ul><ul><li>Keep eyes & ears open for govt or corporate intrusions into our digital lives! </li></ul>
  27. 30. Never forget your e-shadow!
  28. 31. Summing up… <ul><li>Govt/corporate attempts to regulate content MUST be resisted at all times </li></ul><ul><li>Self regulation MAY be considered for more ethical, civilised behaviour online </li></ul><ul><li>Online only publishers need to pay more attention to digital archiving, indexing, etc. </li></ul><ul><li>Discussions migrating to Facebook means closed conversations, no longer open, accessible or searchable! </li></ul>
  29. 32. That’s it, folks! <ul><li>Email: </li></ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul><ul><li>Blog: </li></ul><ul><li>nalakagunawardene.com </li></ul><ul><li>Twitter: </li></ul><ul><li>twitter.com/NalakaG </li></ul><ul><li>Thanks to : Rohan Samarajiva, </li></ul><ul><li>Sanjana Hattotuwa, Chanuka Wattegama </li></ul>