Editorial for January 28: A changing media

 

Yet another criticism of the media
came from someone in government Wednesday, this time Police Commissioner David
Baines.

In starting a press conference to
announce crime statistics for 2010, Mr. Baines lectured the media
representatives present, saying they needed to be responsible in the way they
reported the news.

Thanks for the tip, Commish, but
we’ve already had professional instruction on how to do our jobs.

In our view, these complaints are
coming partially because elected officials and public servants don’t seem to be
able to deal with the rapidly changing media scene. In this era of the Internet
and social media like Facebook and Twitter, mass media is no longer the only
source of news. Anyone with a computer can now post ‘news’ and this can have
tremendous effects on a society.  If anyone
doubts this, they need only look at what is happening in Egypt and Tunisia right
now.

The problem is that many of these
new journalists haven’t actually had any journalism training and therefore
don’t follow accepted practices in the profession. Some report rumour as fact,
and because the written word is often accepted as truth by many naive readers,
rumours are often believed.

The situation is compounded because
on many Internet websites – including that of the Caymanian Compass – people
are able to make comments anonymously, meaning they aren’t held accountable for
their statements.  While it can be argued
that anyone hosting a website that allows anonymous comments has a
responsibility to ensure libelous comments aren’t posted, the same doesn’t hold
true when it comes to opinions – even if the opinion is unfounded. 

Politicians and public servants
might become angry with the Compass or Cayman News Service for hosting forums
for public opinions, but they should be thankful we both at least vet comments
before posting; others might not even do that.

The truth is no can do anything about
what private individuals will post on the Internet, now or ever. The
information world has fundamentally changed and the sooner public servants
learn to deal with the phenomenon – as opposed to constantly complaining about
it – the better off everyone will be.

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