By Mugira Fredrick
This assay is focused on the impact of ICT on journalism. I have written it basing mostly on radio journalism because it is the branch of journalism I am currently involved in.
According to the Wikipedia encyclopedia “Information technology (IT) or Information and communication(s) technology (ICT) is a broad subject concerned with technology and other aspects of managing and processing information, especially in large organisations.” This draws attention to the fact that ICT involves technology that can be used to communicate or rather to convey messages.
ICT has had several effects on journalism, with some of them seen as advantages while others as disadvantages. As noted on (http://www.ilo.org/public/english/dialogue/sector/techmeet/smei00/smeir.htm#1.%20Global%20trends ), “the computer and the modem, long with many other ICT hardware and soft ware innovations and services, have placed us at a high point of a very significant stage of development in the history of human communication, often called, ‘the information society’, and have transformed the way many men and women work in the media and entertainment industries”. This points, to the fact that ICT has brought about significant changes in the journalism.
ICT has led to the generation of more and well researched news. With the coming of mobile phones, you can call your news sources at anytime and get news and moreover well-balanced and researched news. When it comes to the Internet, news and program backgrounders are always available.
Think of any topic you are working, from health, education, lifestyle, to environment, you cannot fail to get information to help you enrich your story especially with those hard to get facts. The Internet has surely transformed the newsroom to greater heights. It is important to note that this comes as a result of globalization and it is also a cause of globalization in one way. Ulla Carlsson (2005:204), argues that, “The development of innovative information technologies and the ongoing processes of deregulation and concentration of ownership, have spurred the pace of globalization especially communications satellites and digitalization-not least the Internet-have had an enormous impact”.
Secondly, ICT has made reporters, editors and other news contributors closer. It has created a ‘network ’that leaves reporters and editors in close contacts at anyone time. The editor can at anyone time call the reporter who is situated in any place, as long as there is telephone network there, and get a story from him/her. Likewise, reporters file stories at any given time via the Internet. A Zambian web development specialist Kunda Chinyanta Mwila, while speaking in an interviews RAP 21, about the future of ICT and Africa newspapers(http://groups.yahoo.com/group/mediaictrain/files/New%20technologies%20in%20news%20room.doc), stated that, “Mobile and satellite telephones and general improvement of landlines, have made it possible for newspapers to get stories from a reporter stationed any where.” No matter where a reporter is stationed, he/she is always connected and close to the newsroom. This happens with our radio station -Radio West, whereby we get some stories from correspondents using phones while others e-mail stories to us.
This in turn is cheap because not much money is wasted on transportation fares of the reporter from the field and back to his duty station. Mwila in his interview with RAP 21, drives this point home when he states, “Once fully adopted and adapted, the ICT will transform the newsrooms into cabled and networked centres with all journalists discharging stories on to a network, editors picking them before sending them to the page designers or casters in the case of electronic media.”
Think of a situation where a story that happens in far countries say Iraq and is read on remote/ rural radio stations in Western Uganda . How could it reach a remote-stationed media house with in a short time? With ICT, this has been solved. You just go to websites that offer news services and get the story. Such stories are later used by media houses as foreign news stories. I know situations where editors tune to transnational media companies such as CNN, BBC radio and TV and get news for their listeners.
Such news is always called foreign news. This in the end makes a news bulletins interesting with rich information not only based on the local scene, but the world over.
More still, ICT has made broadcasting easy, clear and standard, on(http://www.ilo.org/public/english/dialogue/sector/techmeet/smei00/smeir.htm#1.%20Global%20trends) it is noted that , “Digital technology has been around for some time, but the new media revolution really began in the 1990’s with emergence of compression technology, which made it possible top compress, store, manipulated and transmit digital information in previous un heard of quantities ‘and qualities.” ICT has helped several media houses to move from Analogue way of broadcasting to the digital way of broadcasting using computers. With such a system, sound comes out clear. With the use of the computer programmes such as that of cool edit, no sound bytes come out unclear. This draws attention to the fact that ICT has standardized the quality of sound being broadcast, a thing that helps media house to earn more audience.
It is worth noting that ICT has made communication process participatory. It is no longer only the journalist who is involved in this field, but the audience too. The local people affected are also part and parcel of the communication process. With ICT, diffusion, two-step flow and extension approaches of communication no longer hold. Communication is bottom-up. Listeners are able to pick their phones and call in the radio stationers immediately and in form communicators about any thing happening in their area. Reporters later investigate on such issues.
In other words, ICT has helped to bring closer communicators and receivers to the extent that feedback is swift. This in turn makes communication process participatory, useful and development focused as it centers on the audience. Servaes and Malikhao (2005;91), argue that, “Participatory, which necessitates reasoning and moreover trust will help reduce the social distance between communicators and receivers, between teachers and learners, between leaders and followers as well as facilitate a more equitable exchange of ideals” this draws attention to the fact that ICT has made exchange of ideas between communicators and receivers easy hence making the communication process people centered.
Any machine makes work easy. I cannot forget to mention that ICT has made the work of a journalist easier. Getting stories from different various and distant areas is now easy, for you just call there. It is easy to record several programmes on the computer and store them there for future use say if a presenter wants to be away. Live outside broadcasting has been made easy. All these are courtesy of ICT.
Lastly, ICT as developed the journalism profession. Journalists are able to receive training just online. What a wonderful thing to study while you work. Journalists also listen to stories from other stations and copy the style they are written in. This has led to a culture of working towards excellence by journalists. Journalists see/hear renowned journalists and copy the way they report and hence practice such copied skills while they report in their media houses. I know of instances where journalists copy the writing styles for example BBC stories on the Internet.
On the other side ICT has caused unemployment in the journalism profession, as Wilson (2005:58) says those who cannot operate ‘machines’ have been left behind. One is compelled to go for further training or lose a job. Take an example where DJs have to use computers while broadcasting live if he / she does not know how to operate it automatically he/ she loses such a job. This has led to misery rather than good living.
Lastly competition for news and programs from other media houses has been intensified by ICT. The weak media houses have fallen out of the system. With ICT, audience is faced with lot alternatives and those media houses that can offer better services are the ones with a lot of audience. This has led to collapse of some media houses especially following the unfair competition which involves transnational media houses situated in developed nations.
All in all, there is no option for journalism. ICT has to be taken on or else those that refuse will be left behind and out of the globalised world.
Carlsson, U. (2005). From NWICO to Global governance of the information society. In .O Hemer and T. Tufte (ed) Media and global change rethinking communication for development (pp.216 – 246). Buenos Aires Nordicom.
Grangvist, M. (2002) Assessing ICT in development: a critical practice perspective In .O Hemer and T. Tufte (ed) Media and global change rethinking communication for development (PP.285 – 296). Buenos Aires Nordicom
Searvaes, J. and Malikhao, P. (2005). Participatory communications, the new Paradigms In .O Hemer and T. Tufte (ed) Media and global change rethinking communication for development (pp. 91 –103). Buenos Aires Nordicom
Wilson G. (2005) Local knowledge changing technologies. In T. Skelton and T. Allen (ed): Culture and Global change (pp. 58-69) New York: Routledge
New technologies in news room.doc
ICT Journalism Gets Its Due
Introduction to ICT Journalism
New Media Use
The digitized Newsroom
The development of Computer Assisted Reporting