Traditional media should not cede its role

Source:Global Times Published: 2013-12-11 0:43:01

The role of China's mainstream media in this Internet era has some contradictions. Some commercial websites have apparently functioned as the media and showed their might in competition with the mainstream media. The economic power of China's traditional media on the whole  far exceeds that of such websites, yet the way that the websites deliver information is fresh and new, which only serves to highlight the backwardness of traditional media.

Many news resources on commercial websites still come from traditional media, but people from traditional media still lack confidence in competing with the Internet.

The quality of information on commercial websites is still far behind that of traditional media, but this information has quite an influential impetus. The most important reason for this is that these websites have been able to set agendas and have the capacity to set the tones of particular issues.

News was often first exposed or amplified via social networking sites. The initial angle picked by these networks could well-shape the following comments, so that even traditional media often has to track the agenda set by the Internet.

Despite the large number of China's total Internet users, the active members of social network sites and commercial news sites are a relatively small circle. But they have a rather different concept of values toward mainstream society and a strong bias to populism, resulting in the strong subjective agenda of the Internet.

According to communication and political science theory, politically active people can wield an influence larger than their actual force over public opinion. This is true both in the real and in the virtual world. The silent majority is represented by a small number of active members.

The Internet carries the most robust public opinions in China. But it is also where a lot of people grumble over their dissatisfaction toward reality. It is why extreme views often appear to represent China's public opinion. It becomes worse when traditional media follows the tones set by the Internet.

Traditional media should never cede the right of agenda-setting to the Internet. Politically, this is irresponsible, and from the commercial perspective, this would be like choking themselves.

The momentum of the Internet's agenda-setting capability and powerful online opinion have misled some people from the traditional media who believe opinions on the Internet represent all of society.

If traditional media has the same narrow mindset as social media while lacking space for delivering discourse, traditional media will surely be squeezed into a passive position.

Traditional media must bring its superiority of ideas and journalistic skills into full play instead of blindly following the Internet. Moreover, the authorities should support these media to expand their scope of reporting. This is a key external factor to rebuild the influence of traditional mainstream media.

Official organizations at various levels care substantially about online opinions and hope the radical sentiments on the Internet can be evaporated. But society needs a channel to vent its sentiments and there must be reasons behind such sentiments. The way out is to strengthen the role of mainstream media and make social networks have their due influence.

Posted in: Editorial

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