Journalistic Independence: How social media are reshaping power structures in news broadcasting
Content provided via social media from various conflict hotspots raises the question as to how social media are changing news broadcasting. Social media are and still continue playing a major role in the on-going Arab Spring, Occupy, and Wall Street movements.[i] Developments such as this highlight the important role of social media regarding the opinion forming process in the public domain during times of war and social unrest.
The conflict in Ukraine serves as an example: news broadcasters have been reproached of one sided reporting, i.e. the role of neo-fascists in the new Ukrainian government has been understated and Russia stands accused to have sent troops into Ukraine. Social media are increasingly used by news organisations and citizens alike to report from the frontlines. Can social media deliver on its promises of more democracy and transparency in news broadcasting?
At the same time it is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish between real user-generated content and content provided by questionable sources delivering social media propaganda. An example is the portrayal of Arseni Jakzenjuk, former and unelected president of Ukraine: manipulated pictures of him have been circulating online creating the impression that he was greeting visitors to a rally with a Nazi salute[ii].
The civil conflict in Ukraine demonstrates how social media challenge the domination of traditional mass broadcast media. User generated content and the unique characteristics of social media are challenging the traditional relations between media and political authorities. Responding to these new developments, political authorities are changing their audience outreach strategies.
This paper examines how users are reading mainstream news and are participating in the production of information on social media. Are social media providing a real alternative to mainstream news? Can citizens make better choices based on social media information? How much misinformation is saturating social media to confuse the public domain?