The mass media studies emerged in the early middle ages with the church (Mcquail 2008) having various means of reaching the public without exceptions. However, it was in the late sixteenth century when independent media came into place with the birth of newspaper two hundred years after print technology was invented.
The newspaper as medium of mass communications involved production of regular editions did not become an effective tool of the mass medium until the twentieth century according to mcquail, (mass communication theory 2008) when large enterprises took publishing as a business.News paper as a medium of mass media communication was followed by radio broadcasting, film and later televisions broadcasting.
The mass media communications was revolutionised by the advent of satellite communication and the entrance of computer. The entrant of the Internet has also enhanced the accessibility of news to the public especially with online news. Marshall McLuhan in the 1960s, envisaged an environment when the world turned into a global village with the advent of new technologies since technology broke down the geographical barriers. Today, with the development of smartphones and faster transmission of data through Wi-Fi and most recently, LI-FI launched in Dubai, on March 2016, the world indeed is not a ‘global village’ but in ‘our palm’. With a smart phone, and with access to LI-Fi, you can transmit data at a speed of 220 GB per second!SOu
Whereas we have looked at the process through which the mass mediums have been transformed over the century, it is also important to review how the news collection process has also evolved.
Traditionally, the news production is largely encapsulated under journalism and a journalist according to American Press Institute is person who uses particular methods to gather and assess information for publications. The process of news collection and production for print, radio and television are similar. The journalists congregate in the newsroom in the morning and ran through the docket and a reporter is sent to venue where an event is taking place. A print reporter is accompanied by a photographer, a radio reporter is accompanied by a recorder while a television reporter is accompanied, by a camera man.
Once the materials are collected, they are brought back to the newsroom for processing and by the news editors and the sub-editors before the newspaper is published or a radio story or television story is aired. The whole process of the news production was controlled at the newsrooms by the news producers and the news owners. In absence of telephone It would a whole day to produce a story since reporter has to report back to the newsroom to file a story.
The public or the mass audience were deemed to be inactive and relied on the news from the media houses as presented by journalists. It is not surprising then that the early mass media theories were based on the facet. The hypodermic needle theory, cultivation theory, agenda setting theory and framing theories are all based on this assumption.
With the advent of digital media and social media, this news gathering process has been disrupted. The audience are no longer static objects waiting to be bombarded with news from the mass media channels but they are also active players in the news production.
By definition, social media are computer related tools which allow individuals to share, create and exchange information directly without any mediations. As a public relation practitioners, I do not need to send a press release to a newsroom so that the same can be relayed to my target audience. Directly, through the website, Facebook or twitter, this information can be shared directly.
The media houses have woken up to this truth and have embraced new means of news collection.According to a Pew Research in 2014, it was found that 46% of social media users posted their own photos of news events to a social networking site, while 12% had posted videos. This practice played a role in a number of recent breaking news events, including the riots in Ferguson USA in 2015.
To respond to this new development, media house giants like British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)have restructured and adopted a new mode of news collection and dissemination.
When BBC set up a user generated content (UGC)hub in 2005 to monitor social news in the newsroom, they never anticipated the importance of news gathering from this approach and only assigned two journalist to manage the hub.According Trushar Barot, the chief news editor then, after one week of setting up the unit, the July 7th 2005 bombing of London underground train took place. Initial reports indicated that the explosion was caused by a power surge and until, the audiences who witnessed the event started sharing images, on social media, BBC realised that it was not a power surge but a terrorist bomb attack and this changed the whole story.
Bart avers, that from this incidence, they learnt that the audience knew more than BBC, the audience helped the media house tell the story faster and tell the story better. Today, UGC has a permanent presence inside the BBC newsroom and instead of two journalists, they have more that 20 media journalists covering international and domestic stories. and operates for twenty four hours.
CNN in July 2006 launched IREPORT platform to allow citizens or individuals file stories rather than wait for their news report to do the same. This has brought about citizens journalism all facilitated by the emerging digital and social media trends.
In recognition of the importance of the social media in news gathering, several tools have been developed to assist journalists gather news faster.Facebook lists and tweetdeck have been used by journalist to keep them abreast with their specific beats. Storyful, as social newswire has developed tools for monitoring numerous lists on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and other networks and use key words to relate to news event.Previously,journalist popularly used newswires such as AFP, Reuters etc to monitor news story.
Malachy Browne, the news editor of Storyful, in an interview told Journalism .co.uk journal that, they have developed social media monitoring tools which also include geolocation of posts and tweets. Storyful, owns a software known as Heat map and can search for news based on the velocity of tweets or posts from different geographical location and this is enable by the fact that most smartphones have GPS features.
The media houses in Kenya have restructured to include digital media platforms and this has seen some redundancy. Both the Standard, People Daily, The star and nation media have dedicated digital media teams have developed their with news applications to have a presence in the social media scene.
Other applications like InformaCam have been developed help journalist verify information scoured from the social networks and make the process of user generated content easier. In conclusion, social media has not only, revolutionised news collections process but also call for need to develop new mass media theories to explain this new phenomenon which undermines the popular media effects theories developed in the 1920s.