#GFI4SD – Post 4: Can New Media Outlets Provide Accurate Information?

 

Many panels met during the Global Festival of Ideas for Sustainable Development to discuss maintainable actions that will hopefully result to radical innovations towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Various countries are keen to ensure that they increase the number of cities and businesses that drive changes that will meet the SDGs by the year 2030. This post follows the ‘disillusionment’ talk held on March 1st 2017, in particular a segment by Gonzalo Fanjul, Policy Director at ISGlobal and Co-founder of the Fundacion por Causa about media and its role in society (58’).

Fanjul opens this segment by stating that global media is in a crisis of legitimacy, especially since the presidential elections in the United States. He outlines that mainstream Media outlets while they are important tools to raise awareness; as it is harder to discriminate what is true as a reliable source of information due to the atomization of information. Contrastingly, he argues that we need media intermediaries to work for their citizens. He explains that social media platforms have enabled the public access to the same information as the one provided by large media outlets, therefore allowing citizens to investigate issues and legitimacy of information for themselves. Fangul also highlights how the public, more than ever, has the ability to influence change through social media platforms and activist sites such as change.org. These sites are now acting as intermediaries between the public and governments or businesses for example, whereas, before the public would rely on media outlets as intermediaries to raise issues and gain support through their readers or viewers.

Development of new media outlets from mainstream media are increasing at a rapid rate in South America according to Fanjul; he goes on to say that a number of high level media organizations have appeared in  El Salvador (El Faro), Guatemala (Plaza Publica) and Mexico (Animal Politico), which are all funded by philanthropic organizations. Political corruption and scandal are no strangers to South American politics as reported by the Washington Post in 2016. The rise of these new media outlets could help in some small way to spell the end of corrupt governments in Latin America by reporting genuine and accurate information for their  readers. Fanjul believes that because these agencies are publicly funded they can act ethically as better intermediaries than older forms of media outlets.

Taking his comments into account, I feel that if other nations were to take a similar approach, real news stories from unbiased perspectives could thrive. Subscribers to the New York Times increased by 276,000 digitally after the trump elections. This is not to say that their coverage was the most accurate and correct, or even to the contrary, I feel this is because their interactions with the reader in the form of comments pages and option pages, that allows their readers to be a part of the wider debates and issues giving citizens a voice. On the other hand there are people in parts of the world who cannot express their frustrations or opinions at all. Censorship and political biases are very real problems globally for example in China, Saudi Arabia and to a lesser extent in the UK (see my previous post on Whistleblowing).

In conclusion, taking part in ethically sound and accurate media reporting, whether it be in the form of a newspaper or online platform such as Twitter, is more difficult than ever. Fanjul’s presentation and information that he conveys suggest many examples of how media is evolving to better serve the public by giving people a voice and moreover a chance to actively participate in scrutinizing information and actions of their governments. Fanjul is enthusiastic about the changes in media practices in South America, and if it leads to a more expansive overhaul in other countries, I think it is something we can all be enthusiastic about too.

 

Featured Image Credit: www.globalfestivalofideas.org/

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