Monday, March 28, 2011

Media and Accountability: On to Social Media

Alright! We're now onto social media - the Big Three (FB, Twitter, blogs). Zitto Kabwe has just walked in and is on the mike about the role of social media in the North African revolts/revolutions. And moving right along to using social media: "I blog. I tweet. I would encourage other politicians to do the same."

Aaaaah, hapo amenikuna patamu as Makwaia wa Kuhenga would say. It has been very (veeeeeery) interesting watching the emergence of youth politics in the past five years concurrently with the rise of social media. It's a natural attraction: the young politicians are media savvy in a way that the old guard can't even begin to understand let alone compete with. But what are they doing with the awesome powers of social media?

Well- just like the old guard was able to manufacture and manipulate their contemporary media tools to suit them, so does the youth. One or two have been able to create social media mini-empires of their own that revolve around their political persona. Their public avatars, if you will. Great. Does this mean that these politicians are trustworthy and accountable in their use of this media? I don't think so. Non-professional socialmedia is the primordial soup of news- you gotta be very careful what you fish out of that pot. The same demons that haunt traditional media are there in socmed, and they move faster.

Does having a blog or a twitter account or a forum and "breaking news" or leaking documents or expressing your opinion make you a journalist? Should you be held to the same level of accountability as a professional? Or should that kick in when you Get Paid To Use Social Media? Or when you sell advertizing space? Is it okay if you are a politician, on the government payroll and using social media? Is it okay to claim to break news when you do it using Anonymous and refuse to reveal identity, sources or interests driving you?

Weigh in. I would love to hear from you about how you view social media and accountability. I'm afraid that the debate ended rather abruptly in the last five minutes as I was composing the blogpost but you can catch the stream of conversation on twitter at hashtag mediaforum.


  1. I do not tweet or facebook. Maybe I am missing out on a revolution. Only time will tell. I think in case of our country what should worry us is the fashion in which social media is evolving. When a "professional" journalist print a story on newspaper basing on a blog/facebook rumor then we have a problem. ie a resignation rumor of a firebrand minister.

    Or when politicians wanasimama majukwaani na kuhutubia wananchi basing the source of their materials (which have likkle truth)from blogs--then we have a problem.

    If an individual has 1000 followers, or 5000 facebook friends, that should not make individual's comments superior or righteous. That would be an inflated narcissism. I feel that we are encouraging the culture of narcissim in our society, which would eliminated room for dialogue and compromising (if needed).

    One more point, the youngsters in Egypt facebooked their way to revolt against Mubarak. Only to be replaced by the same army promoting the same bureaucracy. The truth is, they would need a political machine to make sure that the ethos of their revolutions are met. Castro did it, Lenin did it, The Ayatollahs did it. The Egyptian couldn't do it. And that should tell u that Social Media can only take u so far.

    Again, I'm old school mshkaji. Maybe I am ignorant (not skeptic) about the prowess of Social Media.

  2. @Anonymous: ... dude/dudette. I had this whole response flow going but I keep getting stuck on your sentence: "We're encouraging the culture of narcissism in our society, which would eliminate room for dialogue and compromise (if needs be)." Because there is a nugget of truthiness in there, I have to go off and think about it a little. You know?
    Ps.- don't worry about being a joiner- billions of people go right ahead with their daily lives without the interference of a computer. And it's all gravy.

  3. Having a blog doesnt make u a journalist as much a owning a pen doesnt make u a writer...its ur style of reporting, its the credibility of ur information. Its the dedication to take further lengths to show people out there with our camera and ur own words and ur own sweat...the reality of things, the facts with no bias...the bread as it butter no jam...just dry bed...they do the inspecting if its cooked well.
    New spread like fire on social media, faster than waking up in the morning and readin it on a paper, we want to know the people who are leading us...that they are in all aspects just like us.......we want to know we can trust them and we want to know where they stand...the social media is like a public place...Artists and politicians in the west use it more than once can imagine! What not us? why dont we use Technology that we can manipulate for out Advantage...but the problem facing Tanzanian politics is that we are scared of transparency...there is nothing wrong with politicians using social media to get intouch with their people

  4. A company's accountability is directly in proportion to what they broadcast in their social media outlets. But some do find legal loopholes in some extreme cases that is used to avoid lawsuites.


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