The media’s purpose has not changed in the digital era; what has changed is the relationship between media and audience.
“We are no longer the first to news; now we have to fact check,” said Lasana Liburd, sports/features writer and Managing Director of the website Wired 868 who was part of a panel discussion at the symposium. Other panellists were keynote speaker, John Allen Jr, the editor of independent US Catholic news site Crux, and local journalists Sunity Maharaj and Mark Lyndersay. The panellists shared their views on the symposium’s theme and responded to questions from the audience.
Liburd said while social media has enabled the public to be first to break news, the media still has the job of telling the public “whether or not it is true”. When a report broke that former professional footballer Dwight Yorke was banned from entering the United States because of a new immigration policy by President Donald Trump, Liburd tried to find out what really happened.
He said “as it turned out” Yorke was blocked because of a visa requirement that was in effect since the Obama administration. His story contradicted the reports carried by other news outlets among them Sky Sports, a subscription television sports brand in the United Kingdom. “You have to be brave in the profession. The predominant thing is we have to protect our own reputation at all times because people remember,” Liburd said.
Maharaj, Managing Director of the Lloyd Best Institute, suggested the education system has to prepare persons to meet the challenges of the digital era. “We have to start in [the] early childhood education system. The great challenge though is who is going to teach the teachers… a different way of knowing and seeing.”
She said individuals were living in “intersecting circles of info” and “trapped in echo chambers”. Algorithms were taking them to places where they felt “this is the universe of truth”.
Maharaj mentioned the influence of propaganda, “the stock and trade of special interests”. She said the antidote was “the capacity to hear everything and keep an open mind and try and find out”. – LPG