CELEBRATING BAYELSA NEW MEDIA TEA 1st ANNIVERSARY
Being a Paper Delivered On The Occasion Of the Inauguration of the Bayelsa New Media Team on Saturday 7th July, 2012 at the Banquet Hall, Government House – Yenagoa, Bayelsa State
It was Jeff Antaya who said many years ago that “Social media is like a snowball rolling down the hill. It’s picking up speed. Five years from now, it’s going to be the standard.” Since the advent of globalization, the Internet and the new media have become vital tools of interaction and networking in private and public organizations. In Nigeria, with the signing into law of the Freedom of Information, Act by Mr. President on 28thMay, 2011, we are now faced with the challenge of deploying the new media platform for effective management and dissemination of information. In fact, there is so much information in the cyber space that our basic challenge now is how to manage it for the optimization of society’s ends.
The rapidity with which information moves today confirms what McLuhan (1948) visualized that the world would be a global village via the use of informatics. McLuhan also adumbrated that technology would help integrate our world into a community networked in real time with inter-communication that Marshal McLuhan could never have foreseen when he projected that the world would become a ‘global village’ through the media of mass communication. In the early 1960s, Mclluhan wrote that the visual, individualistic print culture would soon be brought to an end by what he called “electronic interdependence”: when electronic media replace visual culture with aural/oral culture. In this new age, humankind will move from individualism and fragmentation to a collective identity, with a “tribal base.” McLuhan’s coinage for this new social organization is the global village.
Since I assumed office as Senior Special Assistant to Governor Henry Seriake Dickson in April 2012, this is perhaps the most distinguished audience I’ve had to address. In my usual brutal frankness, I contemplated that I may encounter three problems. The first is that I am a teacher by profession and when events are not titrated to robust fanfare, audiences are hardly patient. Bearing this very obvious hubris in mind, brevity shall be the rule. I shall therefore be mercifully brief without engaging in rigorous scholarship.
Secondly, since African nations embraced the fifth wave economy with its attendant innovations, so many people have not really appreciated the dangers of an atomized world. I too, I’m yet to come to terms with the phenomenon of globalization. Globalization for what, some curious minds may ask. In my mind globalization can only make meaning when it is designed to accelerate the pace of development in all its ramifications.
The third challenge is the emergence of the New media with its uses and abuses. Unlike the conventional print and electronic media, the Social Media is interactive and user driven. The user rather than the editor determines the content of what is published. This poses a trinity of problems namely: violation of privacy, exposure to “phonosphere” and disdain for media law and ethics. Holtzman (2006) opines that “one society’s great challenges will be to figure out how to create a balance between harms and benefits offered by global access to universal information” . The Social Media is alien to morally neutral technology and this explains why more often than not, its users lacerate the moral ligament of society. These areas of breach are commonly found in intellectual property, privacy, free speech and the manner in which images are manipulated for some nefarious ends.
Bayelsa State is perhaps the most researched, discussed and criticized State in Nigeria. This is due largely to the interplay between politics and development. Recently, the State has attracted even more attention because of the Restoration Administration has initiated sweeping reforms to redefine the architecture of governance. The administration has also resolved to shape public opinions and communicate her policies through the conventional and the New Media.
For the purpose of this paper, the conceptual framework is provided by the Social Responsibility Theory and the Uses and Gratification Theory
Social Responsibility Theory:
The pen profession is guided by the Social Responsibility Theory. The social responsibility theory is an outgrowth of the libertarian theory. However, social responsibility goes beyond “objective” reporting to “interpretive” reporting. A truthful, complete account of the news is not necessarily enough today, notes the Commission on the Freedom of the Press: “It is no longer enough to report the fact truthfully. It is now necessary to report the truth about the fact.” The press has a responsibility to society; and therefore should be socially responsible.
This theory takes the philosophical view that man is rational and able to discern between truth and falsehood and, therefore, can choose between a better and worse alternative. Man is capable of determining his own destiny, and given all the facts will make the right choice. There are five main guidelines of a socially responsible mass media/press. These include:
(1) a truthful, comprehensive, and intelligent account of the day’s events in a context which gives them meaning;
(2) a forum for the exchange of comment and criticism
(3) the projection of a representative picture of the constituent groups in the society;
(4) the presentation and clarification of the goals and values of the society;
(5) full access to the day’s intelligence.
Advocates of the Social Responsibility theory believe it is imperative that a commitment of social responsibility be imposed on mass media. In their eyes of the public the mass media has a moral obligation to consider the overall needs of society when making journalistic decisions that will produce the greatest good. However, with the emergence of the Social media, the social responsibility function is fast fading.
The Uses and Gratification Theory: This theory explains that Internet usage has both extended and challenged the uses and gratifications approach to understanding media attendance by discovering “new” gratifications and introducing powerful new explanatory variables. The theory assumes that as people use the social media, the gratification they elicit will depend on the aspect of the web they explore. Academics may use the internet more for research just as fashion designers use the media to identify fashions that are trendy. Youths and fun seekers use the social media to gratify their needs and desires
What Is Social Media (SM)?
Social media, or new media, refers to the publication and dissemination of media content such as text, images and videos, through online social interactions via highly accessible and scalable publishing platforms such as websites, social networking sites, blogs and media aggregators.
Social media and blogs are important components of journalism. In fact it is a phenomenon that has assumed the momentum of a revolution in Journalism. They narrow the distance between journalists and the public. They encourage lively, immediate and spirited discussion. They can be vital news-gathering and news-delivery tools. It is assumed that most actors and bloggers are journalists who should uphold the same professional and ethical standards of fairness, accuracy, truthfulness, transparency and independence when using social media. Practitioners must always remember that social media postings linger on as online archives. Correct and clarify mistakes, whether they are factual mistakes or mistakes of omission.
A media revolution on the social media sphere is transforming, fundamentally and irrevocably, the nature of journalism and its ethics. This implies that publishing is now in the hands of citizens, while the internet encourages new forms of journalism that are interactive and immediate. Our media ecology is a chaotic landscape evolving at a furious pace. Professional journalists share the journalistic sphere with tweeters, bloggers, citizen journalists, and social media users.
The rapid and pervasive growth of social media technologies and their relative ease of use and availability have made social media a popular form of communication. The world over, a certain trend is emerging.
Social networking now accounts for 22% of all time spent online in the US and part of Europe. A total of 234 million people age 13 and older in the U.S. used mobile devices in December 2009. This has increased exponentially. Twitter processed more than one billion tweets in December 2009 and averages almost 40 million tweets per day. This has also tripled since then. Over 25% of U.S. internet page views occurred at one of the top social networking sites in December 2009, up from 13.8% a year before. Again, the number of social media users age 65 and older grew 100 percent throughout 2010, so that one in four people in that age group are now part of a social networking site. As at June 2011 facebook has 750 Million, and whereas the facebook tops Google for weekly traffic in the U.S and part of Europe, the Social Media has overtaken pornography as the Number one activity on the web. . The overriding logic, which sustains the social media, is DIGITAL DARWINISM – the survival of the loudest and most opinionated.
Features of the Social Media:
Social Media is distinct from the conventional, industrial media such as the print media because of certain characteristics. It is proper that we make this distinction very clear to appreciate the dynamics of social media as an agent of change.
1) REACH: Both industrial and social media technologies are capable of reaching a global audience. Industrial media, however, typically use a centralized framework for organization, production, and dissemination, whereas social media are by their very nature more decentralized, less hierarchical, and distinguished by multiple points of production and utility.
2) ACCESSIBILITY: The means of production for industrial media are typically government and/or privately owned; social media tools are generally available to the public at little or no cost.
3) USABILITY: Industrial media production typically requires specialized skills and training. Conversely, most social media production does not require specialized skills and training, or requires only modest reinterpretation of existing skills; in theory, anyone with access can operate the means of social media production. If anyone can, then most people cannot. This is why the social media is subject to horrendous abuses.
4) IMMEDIACY: The time lag between communications produced by industrial media can be long (days, weeks, or even months) compared to social media, which is capable of virtually instantaneous responses; only the participants determine any delay in response.
5) PERMANENCE: Industrial media, once created, cannot be altered (once a magazine article is printed and distributed changes cannot be made to that same article) whereas social media can be altered almost instantaneously by comments or editing.
However, social media promotes accountability by providing the public with information about what the government is doing. It also allows participation by members of the public who contribute ideas and expertise so that their government can make policies with the benefit of information that is widely dispersed in society. With the profuse use of the social media, collaboration improves the effectiveness of government by encouraging partnerships and cooperation within and across levels of government.
TYPES OF SOCIAL MEDIA:
The use of social media platforms has popularized the use of certain expressions. Some of the most commonly used expressions are:
I’m totally gonna’ tag you, this is sooo Facebook material.”
“Do you have a group on Facebook?” (Uhh, not a personal one, no. But….
“ I’m tweeting what you just said.” (Really? Why? Who’s following you?)
“Are you going to the Tweetup on Friday?”
“Find me on Foursquare.” (I’d much rather you BBM, SMS or Whats App me where you are.)
“Check out my MySpace page.” (MySpace what, who?!)
“You should really upload our karaoke night on YouTube.” (Do I look like another Justin Bieber wonder to you?)
“Is your resume on LinkedIn or do you have to email it to me?” (What’s wrong with email? Are people not using that medium anymore? But actually, yes, part of my resume is on LinkedIn!)
The principal categories of social media include but are not limited to:
Blogs: The word “blog” is a composite of “web log”; a website or part of a website that is updated regularly and features commentary and updates on a topic. Example: WordPress, Blogger.
Micro-blogs: A web application that allows micro bursts of text that may also include images and links to other sites and content. Example: Twitter.
Social Networking Sites: An online environment in which you can connect, share and interact with other users who are typically known to you offline. Example: Facebook.
Media Aggregators: Websites that provide a media publishing platform, wherein images and video can be uploaded and stored. Content may be viewed, shared and commented on by others. Example: YouTube (video) and Flickr (images).
Social Calendars and Events: This refers to the use of social calendaring networks that facilitate the real life (offline) meeting of online networks and communities. Examples: Facebook Events, Tweetups (a meet up of Twitter users).
Social Bookmarking Sites: A website that allows the user to bookmark content of interest and share it across the social graph. Example: Digg. StumbleUpon.
Forums: Internet forums are online discussion sites where people gather to post comments, discuss topics and swap information. Example: Boards.
Virtual Worlds: A virtual world is a 3D computer environment in which users participate and navigate using a 3D avatar of their own creation. These environments may be computerized recreations of real world locations or user generated fantasy realms.
Wikis: Wikis are websites that can be created and edited collaboratively with others. Example: Wikipedia
The following guidelines should be taken into consideration when engaging in online activity including social media and social networking.
Confidentiality: Be aware of disclosing sensitive, confidential and proprietary information as it pertains to the company, clients, partners or suppliers. You may throughout the course of your employment be working on projects involving sensitive and proprietary information that requires utmost confidentiality. Always seek clarification before commenting anywhere. Refrain from referencing clients, partners or suppliers without their express approval.
Personal Privacy: Protect your identity online. Do not disclose sensitive and private information about yourself such as your home address, telephone number, PPSN or bank account information. In other words, do not post any information that you would not ordinarily post in a public forum.
Check your privacy settings for each social network. Limit access to your information to only those you trust most within your network and do not have your profile, photos or videos visible to the public at large.
Privacy of Others: Seek permission before posting content relating to other people or situations involving other people, especially if you are tagging them in images or videos, irrespective of whether they appear in them or not.
Are you infringing on their privacy? Are you hurting them or damaging their reputation in some way? Remember, such activity may be in violation of the terms of service of the social network site you are using.
Copyright and Intellectual Property: Be aware of copyright issues pertaining to the use of images and logos belonging to the company or any third parties. Similarly, use watermarks when uploading or posting proprietary assets to protect from download and dissemination by others.
Terms of Service: Be aware of the basic terms of service of each social network or social media site upon which you are active. Such terms of service typically govern copyright infringement, privacy violation and issues of impersonation and abuse. Failure to adhere to these terms leaves you susceptible to being reported by other community members and having your account terminated.
Best Practice Guidelines
The following guidelines are applicable to both corporate and personal social media activity.
Authorization and Responsibility: In respect of each social media profile and online presence, identify and assign responsibilities to individuals tasked with populating and maintaining content and responding to comments.
Accuracy: It is important to be 100% accurate at all times. Do not post content that is not verifiable or has not been verified in advance. Accuracy extends to spelling mistakes and grammar – present a professional image. Retractions are possible but must be done as soon as possible before the content is disseminated further.
The Media Test: Before you post something, ask yourself if you would be comfortable were it detected by a media outlet. If you would not say it to a journalist or at a conference, consider whether it should be published online. Do not engage with the media or members of the media without prior consultation and approval with the appropriate designated person.
Visibility of Content: Unless your social media profiles are highly protected, all content is visible, searchable and returned in public search engines. This means comments and content can be traced back to you.
Indefinite Life of Content: It is difficult to get content fully removed from the Internet. Content can be shared and duplicated very easily. Despite having the source material deleted and removed, it may have been downloaded and susceptible to reposting by someone else. Bear in mind that search engines also present cached results that show older versions of websites indexed prior to any amendments. This means that deleted content can still show up in search results unless the site Webmaster took steps to prevent access to web crawlers.
Distinction: Where a staff member is operating a personal social media account, they must state their views as their own and not representative of the company.
Codes and Principles of Social Media Practice
(1) Objectivity: The Social Media Constitutes a very dynamic aspect of the mass media .One the features of journalism Practice is objectivity-that is to report an event, or story based on facts and without bias. Objectivity means report the event or story as it is without fear or favour. Social Media Practitioners must be objective to avoid libel and its attendant legal challenges. (Okonjo Iweala & Pointblank N1billion Law suit)
(2) Strategy: The Social Media is a dynamic enterprise that requires investigation, clarity, strategy. Every Social Media Practitioner should be trained to acquire investigation capabilities, research skills, technology of the media and a fairly good knowledge of how governmental institution work. Social Media actors should be able to define the purpose of posting a story or a report, or publishing news/opinion. Therefore defining the purpose is very critical to social media practice.
(3) Ethical Considerations: Journalism at all levels and in all climes must take account of some ethical issues. Ethical commitment is necessary for all well-crafted and well-researched and responsible journalism. This is why Social Media Practitioners should avoid the use of vulgar languages; the dissemination of obscenity such as pornographic materials on face book, MySpace, YouTube. Google plus, and any other Social media Practitioner should not post or published pictures of people with sexually provocative dresses; nude pictures or sex related videos. Similarly, Social Media Practitioners are expected to be careful when culturally contemptuous issues and religiously sensitive matters are being reported. There is also a massive range of laws in media law and ethics that prevent snooping divulging of official secrets and pornography. Social Media Practitioners should be acquainted with also get themselves acquainted with media law and ethics, plagiarism is also an offence. Bloggers should at all times cite authorities of such works/write-up and ideas are not original. Plagiarism is an academic sin.
(4) Genuineness: Communication is like pouring out ones inner intentions. Social Media Practitioners and bloggers always speak their mind outline in matters of socio-economic and political importance. Some comments are usually made without verification, as some verses are borne out of political idiosyncrasies. This has become a huge challenge because there are no standard guidelines for bloggers and practitioners .Therefore if the intention of a social Media actor is not genuine soon; it degenerates into monumental errors not consistent with the principals of accuracy, verifiability and transparency.
(5) Rumours & Unconfirmed Reports: At no platform does rumour and unconfirmed reports spread like wild fire as in the Social Media. On the social media platform, spread puts pressure on bloggers to publish their stories, most often with half truths, and outright falsehood. False reports circulate the main media with incredible speed via Twitter, YouTube, Face book, blogs and cell phones. Even major news organizations too often pick up rumours online and spread them with amazing speed. Distorted reports and rumours causes panic, accidents and ultimately chaos. This is why Social Media actors to be meticulous, circumspect and very careful in reporting “live” events such as sports, accidents, braking stories and riots. We should ask question around a particular subject that is reported by a person who is anonymous. We must guard against the use of social media. Again rumours are more attractive because of the rapid decline in the leadership of mainstream media, as the newsroom has continued to shrink. Those who engage in entrepreneurial journalism tend to peddle rumours to score political points.
(6) Ethics of Images: With sophisticated technology such as Photoshop, some bloggers manipulate images such as photographs, video clips via wireless technology .Social media actors and bloggers in the cyber space should be weary of capturing, manipulating or transmitting such materials. There are traditional principles of photojournalism that forbids the indiscriminate use of photos, images and videos. The deliberate manipulation of image or with a view to causing mischief, or to tarnish a person’s image or course disaffection or bring a person to disrepute is a crime and actionable in a court of law. This should be avoided.
Before you use a video or a photograph, you may pose questions like: What is the source of the video or photograph? Who wrote the comment and what was the motivation for posting it?. Does the source have the legal right to the material posted? Did that person take the photograph or capture the video? Has the photograph or video been manipulated? Have we checked to see if the metadata attached to the image reveals that it has been altered?
(7) Anonymity: Anonymity is accepted more readily online than in mainstream news media. Newspapers usually require the writers of letters to the editor to identify themselves. Codes of mainstream media ethics caution journalists to use anonymous sources sparingly and only if certain rules are followed. The codes warn journalists that people may use anonymity to take unfair or untrue “photo shots” at other people, for self-interest reasons. Online, many commentary and “chat” areas do not require anonymity. Online users resist demands from web site and blogs to register and identify them. Anonymity is praised as allowing freedom of speech and sometimes helping to expose wrong doing. Critics say it encourages irresponsible and harmful comments. Mainstream media contradict themselves when they allow anonymity online but refuse anonymity in their newspapers and broadcast programs
8. Truth and Fairness: Social media comments essays and postings should meet the same standards of fairness, accuracy and attribution that you apply to your on-air or digital platforms. Information gleaned online should be confirmed just as you must confirm scanner traffic or phone tips before reporting them. If you cannot independently confirm critical information, reveal your sources; tell the public how you know what you know and what you cannot confirm. Don’t stop there. Keep seeking confirmation. This guideline is the same for covering breaking news on station websites as on the air. You should not leave the public “hanging.” Lead the public to completeness and understanding of whatever you are trying to buttress.
9. Accountability & Transparency: We should not write anonymously or use an avatar or username that cloaks your real identity on newsroom or personal websites. You are responsible for everything you say. Commenting or blogging anonymously compromises this core principle. Actors and practitioners are advised to be careful when you are writing, Tweeting or blogging about a topic that you or your newsroom covers. Editorializing about a topic or person can reveal your personal feelings. It therefore follows that Biased comments could be used in a court of law to demonstrate a predisposition, or even malicious intent, in a libel action against the news organization, even for an unrelated story. We need to be careful when registering for social network sites. Pay attention to how the public may interpret Facebook information that describes your relationship status, age, sexual preference and political or religious views.
Also keep in mind that when you join an online group, the public may perceive that you support that group. Be prepared to justify your membership. We should avoid posting photos or any other content on any website, blog, social network or idea/photo sharing website that might embarrass you or undermine your journalistic credibility. Bloggers and journalists who use social media often engage readers in a lively give-and-take of ideas. Never insult or disparage readers. Try to create a respectful, informed dialogue while avoiding personal attacks.
Nexus between Social Media and Good Governance
Governance is a system of institutions, laws, policies and processes that ensure transparency, accountability, popular participation and the adherence to the rule of law in society at all levels by all. Governance is not the same as government. Governance is the system, and Government is one of the institutions of the governance system. Other governance institutions and organizations include civil society organizations, private sector institutions, political parties, professional bodies, trade unions and faith-based organizations, as well as media organizations such as newspapers, television and radio stations, journalists associations, among other associations.
It is universally acknowledged that social media is far more difficult to control and far more honest that than the traditional media outlets such as newspaper and Television. There is also consensus that since SM is user driven, it better facilitates openness and transparency, which are two cardinal principles of good governance. The Kenyans have used the Ushahidi and Mzalendo platforms to promote transparency at elections and to keep an eye on the parliament
In Bayelsa State, the Restoration Administration under Governor Henry Seriake Dickson has already taken measures to strengthen existing institutions and created new once. Some of these institutions include: The “Bayelsa State Income and Expenditure Transparency Bill 2012”,, Reorganization of the bureaucracy, legislating laws to curb cultism to create an investment friendly atmosphere and inculcating the habit of saving into the public consciousness. There is also “Bayelsa State Fiscal Responsibility (Amendment) Bill 2012; Bayelsa State Government and Local Government Compulsory Savings Bill 2012 among others. The Dickson Administration has also embarked on a huge range of policies designed to promote transparency, public participation and institutional consolidation.
Social media has emerged as a powerful development tool, adding to the potency of mobile telecommunications as drivers of economic and democratic change. Despite limited Internet access in some parts of the world, as well as limited freedom of expression and information, social networking websites are increasingly being accessed in the developing world through mobile phones.
Social media should be viewed by the governments as a tool for effective governance, transparency and accountability. It is also a good tool for governments to communicate effectively with their citizens. Like their counterparts in the mainstream media, Social Media aggregators can greatly promote efficiency, effectiveness and integrity as well as the delivery of quality, affordable and accessible social services if they improve their scrutiny of public, private and civil society organizations and institutions.
Good governance has eight major characteristics. It is participatory, consensus oriented, accountable, transparent, responsive, effective and efficient, equitable and inclusive and follows the rule of law. It assures that corruption is minimized, the views of minorities are considered and that the voices of the most vulnerable in society are heard in decision-making. It is also responsive to the needs of society.
Figure 1: Showing the eight pillars of good governance
Social media is challenging donors and development actors – how can the development community use these tools to ensure aid effectiveness by fighting corruption and enhancing political accountability?
Conclusion & Recommendations
Social networks could potentially be used for a broad range of participatory activi¬ties, such as demanding for public services like education and water, contacting leaders, political cam¬paigns and discussions, and fighting corruption. They also could play a critical role in citizen engagement and advocacy, which have a major bearing on transparency and ac¬countability in governance and the conduct of public affairs. With growing numbers of Africans becoming internet users, monthly web information analysis by Alexa.com shows that there are a significant – and rising – number of users of social media on the conti¬nent.
Good governance is epitomized by predictable and enlightened policy making; a bureaucracy imbued with a professional ethos; an executive arm of government accountable for its actions; a strong civil society participating in public affairs; and all behaving under the rule of law”.
I am confident that this ceremony presents a unique opportunity for social media actors to discuss and generate useful ideas to build consensus on how to use the catch all term “New Media” for redefining the architecture of governance.
With the caliber of people in the CENTRAL COORDINATING COMMITTEE in the Bayelsa New Media Team will open a new vista in Social Media Practice and partner the Restoration Administration in promoting transparency accountability and good governance. There will be a healthy partnership between the Bayelsa New Media Team and the government of Bayelsa State.
The Restoration administration will invest in ICT infrastructure and train social media practitioners to practice the art in line with the policy thrust of government. His Excellency, Governor Henry Seriake Dickson has already taken bold steps as a demonstration of efforts geared towards manpower development, and this includes building a formidable stock of manpower in informatics. We must emphasize the symbiosis between the development of marketable talents and skills in the cyberspace and the vast opportunities that abound in the State. In the last analysis, Bayelsa State is well on her way to join other States in Nigeria in the technological travel and no effort should be spared in this direction.
You have been indulgent and I thank you.
July 7th , 2012