KARACHI: At Saturday’s session on Twitter in the newsroom, a consensus seemed to emerge that social media cannot replace mainstream media, rather, they have to work in tandem to be effective.
The session was moderated by popular tweeter who goes by the handle @mightyobvious, Hassan Belal. The panel included Indian journalist Karuna John, journalist Mehmal Sarfraz, author and journalist Mohammed Hanif, security analyst and citizen journalist Norbert Almeida and Bilal Lakhani, publisher of The Express Tribune.
“Twitter is just a tool. The ethos of being a journalist cannot change on Twitter,” said John, adding that “not everybody is online.”
Author Mohammed Hanif was adamant in his opinion that nothing can replace journalists and real news. “If you want news, pick up a newspaper. If you want history, pick up a history book,” he said. “Twitter is scary, I woke up two days ago and #Jinnah was trending. I was like, is he back?!”
So, can social media replace mainstream media?
“No, it can’t,” said Almeida, “I wouldn’t want it to, there’s an issue of credibility.” He said that Twitter supplements what you see on television or read in the news adding that he uses Twitter as a tool. The example he used was his tweets on violence around the city allowing people to find an alternative route home, or alerting his followers on other events. He said social media is about helping people and touching their lives.
“I had a need for information that was not there,” he said, adding that on Twitter, he is able to connect with people and get information “from Khyber down to Karachi.”
It was noted in the session that those who are active on social media like to think everyone who matters is on Twitter, but that is simply not the case. Karuna John said that there is a level of responsibility journalists have to uphold on Twitter. “Keep your trap a little moderated for yourself,” she said.
Mehmal Sarfraz said that social media has helped shed some light on issues that cannot be discussed openly in the mainstream media. She gave examples of minority or sectarian issues and Balochistan.
Belal concluded the session by pointing out that there is a definite disconnect between content in both mediums, with John adding that it would be helpful if the two were able to feed off each other instead.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 16th, 2012.