As the widespread fear of COVID-19 is gradually declining across the globe, people are returning to their new normal. The availability of vaccines has been instrumental to bring back the social and economic activities to their earlier forms gradually. However, in the global context, the upcoming days are still not considered safe. Thus, the new media, which is convenient mainly in terms of dissemination of contents, will continuously be considered as the potential media for a wider extent of human communication in the days to come. The future of print media, especially the newspapers, is laced with challenges. Books, the earliest form of mass media, are also affected by its digital format. But the print version of newspapers is not likely to return to their golden days. The concept of news values and contents based on the extent of newsworthiness will remain decisive. The relationship between the journalists and readers will depend on newspapers’ ability to stand as accountable, reliable and informative media. However, during the over year-long pandemic-induced restrictions, the print media suffered a survival crisis.
New media The new media comprises the digital version of news media or newspapers and social networking sites. As a unique way of human communication, the process of conversation has become wider with the advent of social media. They have not only a wider network with the strength of immediacy as mass communication, but they also multiply the discursive power of those contents presented by the online versions of different outlets of mass media. However, juxtaposition to the institutions of mass communication, which presents edited contents, they are within the individual's reach without editorial gatekeeping. Hence, social media multiply the process of dissemination and creation of a wider level of conversation based on the content first presented by the traditional mass media. They also provide the general public a platform for direct public communication. Social media have been presenting an alternative to mediated communication earlier under the conventional mass media. Thus, besides their role in enhancing social engagement among the people they are significantly visible in terms of their interplay with the mass media. On March 20, 2020, amidst the worldwide crisis created by the novel coronavirus, The Financial Times published an article by Yuval Noah Harari. The write-up, entitled ‘the world after coronavirus’, was inevitable to be popular because of its timeliness and the renowned author. People from all over the world went through it in the print and online version of the newspapers. But the article gathered a thousand times higher number of readers on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. The social network sites took the article from the online extension of the paper and presented it before readers across the world. In other words, social media carried it over to innumerable users and made it viral. The example of the million times multiplication of readership of a write-up, which was originated in print and online version in a very short time shows exponential strength of the social media. It also demonstrates the pervasiveness of the process of dissemination of content and the consequent flow of individual opinion into the public domain. In the current context, news has been distributed through print, radio, television and internet-based media. Internet-based media can be further divided into two types of media: online journalism or the online extension of traditional mass media and social media. Former represents the institutional media, i.e., a new or the digital form of journalism which has been informing people by presenting news and views. Social media is based on a couple of platforms available on the web. As a result of the convergence of the internet with telecommunication, the dream of a communication superhighway has been materialised on the eve of the twenty-first century. Today, social media have become the most powerful domain for global conversation. Social media have become the indicator to get to know about the story everyone talks about. The contents of the conventional forms of mass media have received a new medium. Consequently, the most effective way of invoking conversation has become the re-dissemination of the matter published in a print medium through social media. In such a case publication of message in print is the first step followed by the dissemination through social media as the second step. Hence, mass media together with social media can create real conversation and the public sphere as the domain for such effective communication. The social media now bear two distinct functional characteristics. First, they have been used as the multiplier of the dissemination of the message presented in the public domain through the online extension of conventional mass media. In this case, the contents in digital format would diffuse through social media throughout the world by overcoming time and space. Social media have become a rich domain to archive the contents which were originated from print or broadcast media. Thus, they manifest the phenomena of two-step flow in disseminating or diffusing message.
Effective domain Second, social media have been proved as an effective domain for direct public communication. In this case, the message would reach the mass audience without any mediation. Many of the world's leaders and officials are using Twitter and Facebook for the purpose. Government as well as non-government institutions and service delivery agencies are addressing the public through social media. Social media have been intensifying the conversation beyond imagination. The process of conversation has been modified to a greater extent. Today people around the world converse over digitised contents of the online versions of newspapers, magazines or broadcast media with the help of social media. Consequently, those contents are appearing to avail, exercising influence on the minds of the people living in faraway geographical regions.
(Dr. Aryal is associated with the Central Department of Journalism and Mass Communication of Tribhuvan University.)