The Power of New Media and its Limitations

From Left (back row): Jamali Jack, Kenton X. Chance, Portnoy Zheng, Gary Kebbel , Richard Rong, Richy Li. (Front) Mercedes Menjivar, Rainie Cheng.

Today, three of my fellow journalism and mass communication collegemates and I attended a panel discussion on a topic in which I have great interest.

The American Institute in Taiwan sponsored the discussion of “The Power of New Media and its Limitations” at the American Cultural Center.

On the panel were key speaker Gary Kebbel, a noted U.S. journalist, educator and public speaker on online journalism.

Kebbel is the journalism program director at the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation in Miami, where he directs the foundation’s digital media experiments. He will take office as the dean of the College of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, Nebraska, on July 1, 2010.

The Taiwanese members of the panel were Want Daily Chief Editorial Writer Richard Rong, Yahoo! Taiwan Content Production Director Richy Li, and Global Voices’ Project Lingua Co-director Portnoy Zheng.

I noted the following points from the discussion:

1. Traditional journalists can be like “a fish out of water” in the New Media environment. Gone are the days when the publishers were only the ones who owned a publishing company. With New Media, everyone can become a publisher online. However, the new “publishers” have not learnt the skills and ethics that journalists have.

2. It is often expensive for traditional media organization to create a brand new digital platform.

Richard Rong (L) and Richy Li

3. Young people have a different definition of New Media because they are using it all the time. They upload pictures and videos of themselves because they too want to publish. A lot of young people are using these tools but they do not know how to protect themselves.

4. Who plays the role of gatekeeper online?

5. Taiwan and the Digital Divide: Notwithstanding the size of Taiwan’s media, much of the news content received consumed in cities outside Taipei is “Taipiecentric” (my coinage) and people are therefore disconnected from their communities.

6. About 24 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube every hour.

7. The Digital Divide has been redefined to include access to technology and the platforms and devices that put those technologies to use. It now includes who owns and doesn’t own and iPad.

8. Linguistic issues are important considerations in the New Media environment and there is a need for multi-lingual practitioners and for qualified and well-trained interpreters.

9. What is the role of government in the New Media environment? What is the best way for government to create the systems that allow people access to digital media?

10. Governments have a role to play in creating the infrastructure that allows for access to and use of New Media. However, governments need to limit themselves in the control of content.

Portnoy Zheng (L) and Gary Kebbel

11. Every day that passes and one is not connected to the digital conversation means that one is not a part of the conversation that matters. Opinion leaders, politicians, business leaders, etc. are increasingly using digital platforms. (Venezuela president Hugo Chavez recently opened a Twitter account, Obama was one of the first presidential candidates to take advantage of digital media.)

12. Have we ignored role power of non-profit media and invested too heavily in commercial media? In the past, journalism use to be profitable. Is it okay to leave it to a few owners?

13. Will there be a continued need for traditional media? – New Media is characterized by humanity and is a far cry from traditional media. The opportunities that New Media presents for Traditional Media can only be realized if we change our thinking. New Media must be seen as a way of expanding media. News and current affairs content producers need to think of themselves in terms of “news organizations” rather than “newspaper”, “radio”, “television”. Think: “I am not a newspaper; I am a news organization with a bunch of reaches”. People don’t care about the source as long as they get trusted information, regardless if it is a newspaper or a text message.

14. Is there a future for animated news of the type produced by Taiwan’s Apple Daily?

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