Media consumption has revolutionized over the years. Even though some of the media channels have remained relevant, they have also experienced a change that substantially differentiates their present state from their traditional state. Similarly, new media channels have emerged significantly changing the use of media. My father is an ideal example of individuals who used and experienced traditional media, whereas I represent the consumers of contemporary media. This essay is a comparative analysis and discussion of my media consumption versus that of my father.
Vis and Guzman note that social media is revolutionizing the world, owing to its diverse purposes of consumption ranging from business, healthcare, governance, disaster response to tackling human rights violations amongst others. My father attested to this because when I contacted him and told the topic of the interview, his first statement was that the media had become everything to us unlike before. He has been referring to the dramatic change of the ways the media is consumed today. The first question I asked him was about the ways he experienced the traditional media. One of the critical aspects that he highlighted was that communication was mainly one-way. Here, he meant that the consumers were largely the recipients of information with little or no chance to respond and when the exchange of information happened, it took too long. Traditional media includes radio, TV, print and face-to-face interaction. In case of traditional media, only face-to-face communication enabled people to exchange the information effectively. Any other media would require a long period of waiting to get a response that in some cases did not happen. My father told me of an instance involving his friend whose daughter went missing. He placed an advertisement in one of the nation’s newspapers to try trace her, but he forgot to provide the means though which he could be reached. One of the newspaper’s readers knew daughter’s location and thus, responded by placing yet another advertisement in the paper again failing to provide contact information. The whole communication process proved tiresome and time consuming simply because the information could not be exchanged efficiently. In fact, my father jokingly indicated, “My friend almost told the man to post his daughter in the newspaper as the advertisement since that way he could get her at the nearest newspaper stand!” This highlights a major difference between the traditional and contemporary media consumption. Today, exchange of information is so efficient that it occurs within minutes or even seconds. Social media is an ideal example. If a user posts information on one of the social networks, such information may reach thousands of users and an equally big number may reply to it within minutes. The same can be seen with the TV, radio and modern digital newspapers. In case of TV and radio, communication is no longer one-way. Many channels provide platforms to call or text to interact with the studio and even other consumers. Similarly, most digital newspapers and magazines provide an opportunity for consumers to post their responses that can be read by other consumers.
The other question that I asked my father was how soon they received important information. His response was as follows:
“When I look back, I find it unbelievable. Things would happen in a far north city and we would only receive the information after two days! Long after the dust had settled. News reporters would sometimes travel by feet to collect information and some of them could be attacked by animals on the way. Their experience would then become the news item of the day”
In comparison, today, information is transmitted as soon as it appears with the exception of largely remote areas. News reporters rely on efficient means of communication to obtain the information and broadcast it to consumers in time. Interestingly, whereas one thinks that faster transmission has reduced distortion of information, some critics point to a very important reality. Many people who would otherwise be consumers of information took it upon themselves to produce and disseminate information. As a result, information is distorted and it is very hard to draw a line between reality and artificial information. A good example is the terrorist attack that have taken place in Turkey recently. Within a short period, the information had been shared and transmitted through social media and other platforms around the globe. However, one could not fail to note that information regarding the same subject could be reported so differently that it was hard to distinguish the truth. As if all of a sudden everyone had become a professional journalist. Here, my father noted that traditionally one could be assured that the information was reported the way it happened unless some journalists distorted information for certain purposes. In my opinion, this might be the reason some companies resort to using the traditional media to reach the audience. Therefore, they are assured that the information will not be “hijacked” and distorted before it reaches intended audience. According to Hooper, some of the examples include fashion sites such as style.com and netaporter.com as well as Google that have begun publishing print magazines seeking to refresh that component of their business model. However, looking at the issue from a different perspective, one would argue that traditional media offered fewer chances for the journalists to exhibit professionalism as if consumers would have to be satisfied with the information reported to them even if they felt it was not correct or done in the right way. In fact, my father also made this observation when he noted that producers and reporters of information had so much authority that the consumers could not question them or their reports. Moreover, even if they wanted to do it, there was no medium for doing it. He recalled one of the experiences he had:
“There was a time a robbery incidence happened in my neighborhood and I got to witness it firsthand. I was there and the journalist even questioned me on a number of aspects regarding the residence. To my shock, on the news I heard a different version of what I had told him about the state of my neighborhood. Even though he accurately reported the robbery, I felt disappointed that he had added some lies indicating that the environment encouraged crime. Unfortunately, I could not do anything”.
In comparison, today, gross misreporting by a journalist otherwise regarded as a professional opinion may draw a lot of criticism and even cause him to lose a job. Social media platforms enable consumers to express their opinions openly and in an anonymous manner. Therefore, out of fear for compromising their media houses’ and even their own credibility, journalists must exhibit professionalism.
As highlighted earlier, my father has noted that modern media serves many functions to us unlike traditional media, which only disseminates information and entertains. In fact, he indicated that the functions of the media were so simple and predictable that he had memorized the programs and advertisements of a typical weekday. Today, media informs, educates and entertains in so many different manners that it is hard to predict what to expect. Creative shows and programs emerge almost every day now. Fundraisers, businesses and campaigns are only a few examples of the myriad activities that take place on contemporary media platforms. Here, my father made an important observation that as much as this change presents many opportunities, some people may take advantage and misuse the media. He indicated that in the old days, discipline was highly exercised and people could not share any information. Obscene and inappropriate pictures were totally unaccepted and as he pointed out, the entire family could sit down and watch almost any program as long as it was not violent. In comparison to the past, contemporary media no longer has stringent regulations or they are poorly enforced.
Furthermore, it is worth noting that contemporary media claims a lot of freedom of expression, which is supported by a considerable proportion of the society. The issue becomes even more complicated when people feel that the government uses regulation as a pretext to perpetuate other agenda. These conflicts put the public interest at stake and consequently, the consumer is put in jeopardy in terms of the exposure to different kinds of information he (University of Leicester, n.d). For example, the Internet. In the contemporary society, the kind of information available on the Internet is almost unlimited regardless of the age of the consumer. My father has expressed concern over such problems as computer games and extremely violent movies that jeopardized the growth and development of children. He clearly indicated that such problems were non-existent in traditional media and that consumers had a very good perception of the media channels. He concluded that back in the day a parent had a very easy task in terms of regulating what children consumed through the media. All he needed to do was switching off the TV and getting rid of unwanted newspapers and magazines in the household. In comparison to the modern day situation, parents today are almost helpless in regulating the media consumption of their children.
In conclusion, there is a myriad of differences between the contemporary and traditional media consumption. The interview I conducted with my father made me realize how much these aspects of communication had changed. It seems that things will never be the same again. Social media has revolutionized particularly communication and other media platforms like TV, radio and print are trying to catch up with the trend. Regulation of the content communicated over the media has become hard owing to the strong opposition of the people, who feel that it limits the freedom of expression. It is interesting what direction the current trend will take in the future.