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At Tiger Bay panel, traditional journalists and new media debate if the medium is, in fact, the message

By on May 9, 2012

While sitting on the sidelines of today’s Suncoast Tiger Bay Club meeting, listening to local panelists discuss “Traditional Media vs. New Media,” it became crystal clear that Marshall McLuhan’s prophetic phrase, “The medium is the message” first published in 1964 had become a reality far beyond anything McLuhan could have possibly imagined.

The panelists for today’s Suncoast Tiger Bay meeting included Eric Deggans of the Tampa Bay Times, Jeff Houck of the TBO.com, Mitch Perry of Creative Loafing, Noah Pransky of WTSP 10 News, John Romano of the Tampa Bay Times and Peter Schorsch of Saint PetersBlog.

Our experienced panelists discussed issue such as predicting whether newspapers will still be politically relevant in ten years, with most of the panel agreeing that yes, though it might look different. Schorsch was a striking voice of dissent on this issues, stating flatly, “absolutely not.” Schorsch pointed out that newspapers are not economically sound and that the on-line publications The Huffington Post and Politico were Pulitzer Prize winners this year.

Largo Mayor Pat Gerard asked the panel a pertinent question in the wake of local newspaper layoffs and marked circulation decline, “Will the decline of local newspapers lead to the decline of keeping an eye on local politicians? […] How do we know who to trust?”

Deggans responds, “Trust yourself.” He continues saying that while “there is downsizing in newsrooms, you have the tools to determine how valid, how real and how important a story is.” Deggans explains that this isn’t determined entirely by the source.

St. Petersburg City Councilmember Karl Nurse posed the question as to whether media is making people more educated or more opinionated. Schorsch stated firmly, “More educated” He said, “There has been a 400 percent increase in talking about politics since 9/11,” where Schorsch credits social media as a significant reason why. Schorsch also contends that through the use of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, the volume of national dialogue about all issues has increased. Yet, Pransky was less enthusiastic stating that he believes overall people are more opinionated based on blog postings yet more educated from traditional media.

Willi Rudowski of the Poynter Institute asked, “What is the benefit of speed over accuracy for democracy?” Deggans first spouted off saying, “None.” Then, he follows-up with a more complete answer, “Imapct.” When you are first, he explains, it gets you noticed, and being noticed affects your bottom line, and that’s important if you want to stay in the game.

Yet, I suspect that Deggans meant what he said the first time, “None.”

Romano expanded on this saying that while this is true, he believes that “speed is often destroying good journalism. Good journalism is comprehensive, nuanced and thorough.”

Schrosch had more to add to this, however, and this point was my biggest take-away from this panel discussion where “The medium is the message” became the true topic of conversation. And I’m not saying that because Schorsch pays me, which he does, but because I believe it to be true. I’ve seen it in action.

Schorsch replied to the question of the benefit of speed over accuracy for democracy citing Twitter feeds to help organize protesters in Tunisia and other similar stories to help gather, organize and inform the public via social media tools. “It’s about getting people organized versus the ‘right people’ organized.”

At this point someone interjected, “The news is different from social media.”

But is it?

Schorsch said that the power of new media isn’t just to inform. “You can use it to overthrow a totalitarianism regime. I want to be able to help overthrow a totalitarianism regime.”

And here, the medium surely is the message.

What does that mean? “The medium is the message” refers to the reality that not only does the content the medium carries affect society, but the medium itself plays a significant role in the story and in shaping society.

Mediums such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are as much a part of the story as the stories they tell just as much as the newspaper, television show or cable news station is. Moreover, whether we are discussing traditional media or new media, the storyteller his- or herself also is the message.

Via Daphne Street. You may reach Daphne at dts.streetmedia@gmail.com.

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