Shifting balance between mainstream and social media?
by İsmail Selim Eşsiz
Apr 12, 2015 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by İsmail Selim Eşsiz
Apr 12, 2015 12:00 am
In the previous week's article, "Misinterpreting the facts and fueling the conspiracies," we focused on how social media can be caught up in a wave of conspiracy theories. While this is dangerous and misinforming in its own right, there seems to be a situation far more problematic.
But before delving into it, let's talk a bit about the relationship between conventional and social media. Ever since the birth of social media we have seen reflections of news, articles and events in conventional media on it. Therefore, in those times, social media had a positive effect since it both provided hits on websites and also gave us a much easier way to assess the repercussions of news articles. The tweets, status updates and comments worked as letters to the editor as well. However, in recent times we have seen a shift in this symbiosis and, unfortunately, not for the better.
Now, the role of acting as a source more often times is not seen on social media. Almost every day now we see news about a person or subject saying that they were the hot subject of Twitter, Facebook or some other platform. While this approach is debatable, this has paved the way for more troubled conduct. Now quoting anonymous people from social media, giving credit to their assumptions and writing about their speculations has become so common that many readers have already grown accustomed to it. Journalists certainly have. After all, shifting the responsibility of research onto social media users and possibly shifting blame onto them if the accusation is false seems all too convenient. Of course, social media does not seem to be bothered by being in the spotlight since it, as I said before, has become too enamored by its power in having a place in newspapers, if not dominating the news altogether. After all, are we not all chasing our 15 minutes of fame?
However, journalists must be more careful when chasing a lead provided by social media since most probably they will not have the means to properly vet the information. They should also take care since anything they say might be a perfect excuse to launch a social media campaign that will most probably be devastating to the afflicted. An example of this situation occurred this week. Let me give a quick summary of the events. Hürriyet daily Ankara representative Deniz Zeyrek appeared on a live TV show three days ago and made certain implications about a political candidate named Eyüp Gökhan Özekin, painting him as being affiliated with al-Qaida. It was even more than an implication since Zeyrek said very clearly that this candidate had relations with al-Qaida-affiliated groups. A very serious accusation if correct, and if not, a grave slander. After the show, many on Twitter were angrily criticizing the political candidate, demanding an explanation, and it soon got out of hand. Damage to the person's image was already done. Nevertheless, Zeyrek later apologized for implying the terror affiliations without any tangible proof and admitted that his approach to the matter was mistaken. While admitting mistakes is indeed important, time will tell if that was enough. It certainly showed that using conspiracy theories that end in a social media lynching is no way to ethically conduct responsible journalism.
Another example was also apparent this week in the Turkish media. There was a YouTube video showing an altercation between a motorcyclist and a car driver that quickly went viral. Many news outlets operating on the web published the video with titles that have commentary tendencies. The resulting social media debates were disturbing though. There were many heated arguments between motorcyclists and car drivers, and there were instances of promised violence by both groups. Giving airtime to these types of dividing contents just for the sake of a few hits will only serve to close the gap in terms of responsible reporting between social media and its mainstream counterpart. But believe me when I say this, the shift will not be in favor of responsibility.