Educational sheet 5


Level : Intermediate

Educational goals

Objective 1: Knowing how to tell the difference between traditional and new media

Objective 2: Understanding how social media have transformed the media landscape

Objective 3: Knowing the risks and opportunities of ‘citizen journalism’

Traditional media

Traditional media are the media that were established before the internet: radio, television, and print media. Starting with the digital revolution of the 1990s, the way information is supplied and consumed began to change, which led to traditional media adapting their content to keep up with their audience and, quite simply, to survive. As a result, written press, radio, and television have been overhauled to offer online versions of their content as well as versions for smartphones and tablets. Even though we have these new ways of getting our news, it is important to remember that traditional media still have the same goal: providing the same information to a large group of people at once. It is up to the people receiving the information provided to them whether they pay attention to it.


The prime asset of traditional, legacy media – characterised by their practice of professional journalism and fairly rigid formats (editorial constraints, periodicity) – is their reputation. Even today, they are still considered reliable sources of information, especially with the rise of news that comes from social media.



Social media

The year 2004 marked the appearance of a new media presence to compete with traditional media: social media (‘new media’). These are digital platforms whose content is generated by users and that rely on users interacting with each other. This collaborative principle is unique to Web 2.0: users, who had previously been mere viewers of web pages, now have an active role. Today’s biggest social networks include Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat, and LinkedIn.


Social media, which have become one of the primary sources of information for the general public, especially young people, have a number of distinguishing features that have revolutionised the media landscape. First and foremost, these platforms encourage interaction: nowadays, news programmes are designed to encourage social media commentary, especially Twitter, which promotes discussion amongst its users. Social media also have the power of being instantaneous. Today, thanks to tools such as ‘livetweeting’, users can follow an event as it happens without having to be there. They know what is happening well before it comes on the evening news. Social media have also broken the news monopoly once held by traditional media; because of platforms like Facebook, anyone can be witness to an event and share it with the entire world the very next second. This practice has led to the birth of ‘citizen journalism’, which makes every social media user a powerful producer of information.



Information in the digital era: risks and opportunities

The rise of new, digital forms of information (online news, blogs, Wikipedia, YouTube, social networks, etc.) encourages greater access to knowledge, freedom of expression, and public participation. Today, the coexistence of various print, audio-visual, and online media has increased access to information and has created a culture of participation where the public is not satisfied to just consume information, but also contributes actively to its production and dissemination.


The main risk in this overhauled media landscape is disinformation. Mass use of social networks leads to questions about the veracity of information. What gives someone the credibility to talk about a particular topic? What about the risk of creating confusion around fake news and making it even more difficult to tell fact from fiction on the internet? From this standpoint, ‘classic’ journalism retains its relevance; its mission of curating, analysing, and interpreting information remains indispensable.