Ethan Zuckerman had a great insight yesterday at the Knight Foundation event looking at the information needs of communities.
Ethan pointed to the coverage of Tunisia and how the video of Mohamed Bouazizi’s self-immolation was uploaded to Facebook, one of the few such sites still accessible in Tunisia. Exiled Tunisian Sami ben Garbia covered the early stages of the revolution on her personal blog and also Nawaat.org, but Ethan noted at the time that there was precious little coverage, especially in the US. The video and story of Bouazizi’s self-immoltion was then picked up by Al Jazeera. Al Jazeera became the amplifier.
In the early days of social media, social media an traditional media were portrayed in conflict. In the US, the mainstream media became referred to as the lame-stream media by some bloggers, usually by bloggers on both the right and left that were frustrated that traditional journalists didn’t present the world as viewed through the bloggers’ partisan prism.
However, as both social media and traditional media have evolved, a complex, symbiotic relationship of filtering and amplification has developed. It’s a great insight, and I think one of the biggest challenges for all of us as Ethan has been pointing out for years is to seek views outside of our own circles. That’s a fascinating challenge for journalists. How do we open up echo chambers rather than amplify them?