How Facebook Live Broadcast is Changing the Role of Modern Journalists

It is perceived that the launch of Facebook Live since January 2017 has simultaneously led to the massive democratization and devaluation of conventional reporting and broadcasting news in the modern era.

Since times immemorial, journalists were the gatekeepers of information playing the middleman between public and policymakers. The news went through a series of filters, verifications, checks and ratification before it reached public. This sifting process performed by the journalists helped the dissemination of authentic news to the public following a discreet order of priority.

Gradually, as social media evolved and started playing a pivotal role in information dissemination, community journalism emerged to define the new paradigm of journalism. John Dewey, one of the salient proponents of community journalism believed that journalists can engage citizens to generate content to create an environment of shared knowledge. There too, journalists were instrumental in extracting the pertinent information from the relevant people.

Today, it appears that the onset of Facebook Live marks a turning point in the history of citizen journalism where the public is slowly taking control of information transmission and the role of journalists is taking a backseat. In the light of current developments, aspiring journalism professionals may wonder whether there will be any need of journalists in future. And most importantly, what is the future of journalism in the current context?
Before we jump to derive an answer, let us first glance through some of the far-reaching consequences that social broadcasting has brought about and understand how the role of journalists remain as focal as ever even at this volatile point of time…and will remain so in the future as well.

  1. Social broadcasting is blurring the line between reporting and activism
    One of the key elements of journalism is to “maintain independence from those that they cover”. Journalists are trained, even today, with the art of selective reporting for fair, objective, and unbiased narration of events. But nowadays social channels like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Periscope are streaming live news parallely from multiple sources, that is making the news content more reactive than responsive. This shift in news publishing is leading to mass protests, shootings, beatings, arrests and social anarchy.
  2. Open journalism threatens people’s privacy and safety
    From petty thefts, rape, domestic violence to murder, live information is being streamed for the public to view from anywhere, anytime. Safety and privacy issues are merely afterthoughts in this era of real-time broadcasting in social media. There is no shield for people who are being recorded and played in front of the world audience at the whims and fancies of people who are not remotely concerned about its aftermath on the victims of such events. In such dire circumstances, professionally trained journalists play a vital role of safe guarding the interests of the people involved in the news broadcast.
  3. Indiscriminate news streaming is desensitizing us towards violence and crimes
    This unbounded freedom of expression is slowly eroding our regard for social decorum. We are gradually becoming numb to the serious issues that need the community to participate for bringing long-term solutions. So much of violent news around us is making people withdraw, disengage, and detach themselves from the problems around us. Journalists as “watchdogs” of information help retain the sense of proportion in a news content. Unlike Facebook that enables broadcasting on the go, professional journalists are hired to ask “how much is too much”.
  4. Information overload is confusing our focus
    Journalists follow the inverted pyramid structure of news reporting – beginning with the most important information and ending with the least relevant information. This makes it incredibly easy for the readers to scan through and retain relevant information. With the trend of indiscriminate social publishing, readers are suffering from the burden of information overload resulting in reduced attention span. This drift is negatively impacting audience news consumption. There are millions and zillions of news elements waiting to be revealed to the world. Who will determine whether it’s worth your time and attention? The journalists and news editors help you focus on the relevant news.
  5. There are no filters and neither censorship of information
    Monitoring and censoring is still not applied in social news broadcasting. This can trigger irrational reactions and sentiments on impressionable minds leading to social anarchy. Professional journalists are trained to use their judgement to censor content before broadcasting them to the public.

And Finally…
The idea is not to downplay the significance of Facebook Live. It is yet another way of staying connected with the world of information. The key is to create adaptive mainstream journalism practices, drawing active social engagement.
The concept of journalism is in a state of flux. As a result, we will always need a dynamic professional approach for managing and delivering progressive journalism. All the stakeholders of society are in the constant process of devising ways of controlling the moral and cultural outrage that is being inflicted by rampant broadcasting in social media.
The emerging media courses are being designed to facilitate accurate, balanced, dynamic, and responsible journalism. The leading media schools and colleges are continuously trying to adapt their pedagogy and learning approach to educate budding journalists who will leverage technology, involve community, set standards of journalism, become responsible gatekeepers and help society.

Blog Initiative by Future Media School