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Changing trends in media ecology

Changing trends in media ecology
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Changing trends in media ecology

Highlights

The Union Government's haste in framing of rules to monitor digital media, specially taking into account manifold attacks on articles critical of the government and increasing attacks on freedom of the press and journalistic rights has come in for media scrutiny once again in the country.

The Union Government's haste in framing of rules to monitor digital media, specially taking into account manifold attacks on articles critical of the government and increasing attacks on freedom of the press and journalistic rights has come in for media scrutiny once again in the country. Media is getting increasingly hostile to what it perceives as designs of the BJP-led government to scuttle dissidence and disagreement as a direct attack on press freedom. Media is getting dragged into the tussle between the civil society members and the governments by supporting the former.

But, where does the problem lie? A media revolution is transforming, fundamentally and irrevocably, the nature of journalism and its ethics. The means to publish is now in the hands of citizens, while the internet encourages new forms of journalism. Our media ecology is a chaotic landscape evolving at a furious pace. Professional journalists share the journalistic sphere with tweeters, bloggers, citizen journalists and social media users.

Amid every revolution, new possibilities emerge while old practices are threatened. Today is no exception. A central question is to what extent existing media ethics is suitable for today's and tomorrow's news media that is immediate, interactive and "always on" – a journalism of amateurs and professionals. We are moving towards a mixed news media – a news media citizen and professional journalism across many media platforms.

This new mixed news media requires new mixed media ethics – guidelines that apply to amateur and professional whether they blog, tweet, broadcast or write for newspapers. Media ethics needs to be rethought and reinvented for the media of today, not of yesteryear. The changes challenge the foundations of media ethics. The challenge runs deeper than debates about one or another principle, such as objectivity. The challenge is greater than specific problems, such as how newsrooms can verify content from citizens.

The revolution requires us to rethink assumptions. What can ethics mean for a profession that must provide instant news and analysis; where everyone with a modem is a publisher? The media revolution has created ethical tensions on two levels. On the first level, there is a tension between traditional journalism and online journalism. The culture of traditional journalism, with its values of accuracy, pre-publication verification, balance, impartiality, and gate-keeping rubs up against the culture of online journalism which emphasises immediacy, transparency, partiality, non-professional journalists and post-publication correction.

On the second level, there is a tension between parochial and global journalism. If journalism has global impact, what are its global responsibilities? Should media ethics reformulate its aims and norms so as to guide journalism that is now global in reach and impact? What would that look like? Media ethics must do more than point out these tensions. Theoretically, it must untangle the conflicts between values. It must decide which principles should be preserved or invented. Practically, it should provide new standards to guide online or offline journalism. Well, we are on the cusp of change and a clash is inevitable between the powers that be and the media coming to terms with the sweeping changes.

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