by Mohammed Ali
Nearly all youth in the country are hooked on one social media platform or another, whether it’s Facebook or Twitter. Social media has changed the way news is delivered. Discussing a wide range of issues, from politics, to music and personal issues, it has become a “parliament” of the modern generation to engage in issues in the world that surrounds them.
The trend toward social media has impacted the media environment in Ghana greatly. Mainstream journalism is gradually feeling the heat from social media. Newspapers, one of the early methods of disseminating information, are fast losing ground as the main information bearer. They have come to face keen competition in the world of news dissemination as the demographics of the country currently shifting towards youth. The influence of social media is increasing and many newspaper organizations are being forced adjust to the new world of digital media.
The Herald spoke to a number of media experts to find out about the trend towards social media and to see if they think that new media poses a threat to old.
Bright Blewu, former General Secretary of the Ghana Journalists Association
The effect of social media is very profound, (but) in fact I must say that we are never going to survive without newspapers. It has become human culture to want to read newspapers, but what social media is going to do is to put more pressure on newspapers to be more professional and more creative.
Social media will compel newspapers to do a good job because you see, people are discerning enough these days. What it does is to open the space- which is a good thing- and puts some pressure on newspapers to do a better job and be fast. (Journalists) have to go the extra mile- give details and background- if you don’t do a good job, obviously your circulation will fall.
Social media is (also) putting so much pressure on many African politicians to open up, which is good for governance and getting people interested in governance too.
Mr. Kodwo Boateng, Mass Communications Lecturer at the Ghana Institute of Journalism
(With the coming of social media or new media) anybody can create stories or can share stories and so on. This is rather (causing) the newspapers to redesign and reengineer the way they communicate with their audience. If you look at the Daily Graphic, they have actually been able to redesign and reposition themselves in the market. The newspaper has been redesigned to appeal to people who are used to reading from the net.
Most of the newspapers have a site or online newspaper. If you are a news organization that deals with the production of print media and you don’t have an online media (presence) then it can affect your organization.
Actually in other countries it (the transition to online) is happening. For example in the United State of America, about 70% of the newspapers are going online instead of the hardcopy. Because our mobile devices have the capability or the platform, it’s easier for you to get the news on your mobile phone or on your tab. If Ghanaian media houses do not reorient themselves, very soon they may not get customers to buy their newspapers.
Social media can be a threat, depending on the position the proprietor of the newspaper takes, or it can complement the work of newspapers. If you do your work well, and you are strategic, you can reduce the circulation of the newspaper (hard copy) and increase your readership online. So you can take advantage of both. But if we see it as a threat, then it becomes a problem. The only problem is that it threatens the job or profession of journalists.
Martin Asiedu-Dartey, Editor of Weekend Globe
Social media is gradually taking over. We have a lot more coming in, lot more around, the most popular being Facebook and Twitter. (Usually) the person must get a newspaper before they know what is going on. But with the new social media, while on the go, you will be informed about what is happening.
It will take time for the effect (transition to social media) to happen because a lot of people are still glued to reading from newspaper. It’s probably a generational thing. Maybe in a few more years, social media will fade out newspapers, but as it stands now newspapers are quite still popular, and people prefer the newspapers rather than necessarily going to Facebook or staying with the social media.
The negative impact on newspaper companies is that (it will have) reduced the number of publications. Because the (market) would have changed. We, the newspaper generation, would have faded out and the generation of social media would have taken over. A lot of the newspapers- in the shade of these social media upsurge- have started finding ways of merging the two so they can still stay relevant. So the newspapers now have websites, Twitter, and Facebook where some give ideas of their stories. That is happening now. They are merging both the social media and the newspapers, but with time (newspapers) will fade out.
*The above interviews have been edited for space and clarity.