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St Vincent DPP cautions journalists

Carol Martindale in St Vincent

St Vincent DPP cautions journalists

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The Caribbean Media and Communication conference got underway in St Vincent this morning with a caution to journalists that with the advent of social media, they must “pause, think and re-think”.
It has come from St Vincent’s Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Colin Williams who not only outlined the benefits of the new media, but also the negatives which pose a threat to traditional media.
He was addressing regional journalists gathered at the National Insurance Services conference room on the topic 21st Century Media: New Frontiers, New Barriers.
Williams said: ”To be sure, the Internet along with the massive growth and expansion of technology has opened up new horizons; they have provided new opportunities.  Indeed, the traditional construct of mass communication has been transformed forever.
“No longer is there a sender transmitting a message to some mass audience who have limited and restricted means of responding or providing feedback.  That old static construct has been eroded and remodeled, with opportunities for far greater interaction and exchanges between participants”, he said.
Williams noted that at first glance it would appear that the authority and responsibility of editors and reporters are under significant and substantial threat.
“Anyone can become a reporter.  All that is needed is access to the Internet.  An untrained and uninitiated person can easily transmit information and reach as many persons in a way that was once reserved for those possessing the elaborate infrastructure to do so. To take it to its apparent logical conclusion: No longer are persons going to be dependent on reporters and journalists and reputable sources for their information, because they would be able to access the same information through their social media, through the network they are linked into” he added.
He noted too, that there was little control, supervision or accountability on the Internet, with no real proper system of regulation.
“On the one hand, it provides instant and immediate access, enabling persons who before may have been passive recipients to now become not just an active participant, but a source of information as well” he said, recognizing that new media appealed more to the younger generation.
The DPP cautioned that all this could paint a “gloomy picture” for the future of traditional media, as the freedom of expression was both the strength and weakness of the modern media.
To maintain its place in society, he said traditional media needs to ensure it is properly staffed by profession and competent employees.
“The argument can also be advanced that the traditional media itself is not staffed by qualified and competent personnel, that in fact there are no requirements, no basic standards that have been established for entry into the profession. One may well say: those masquerading as journalists are no better trained or qualified than the itinerant busybody with a digital camera, computer and internet connection, so the modern media could easily displaced the traditional media” he said.
 He therefore cautioned media managers to recognize that social media does not only provide an alternative source for information, but could challenge the economic viability of media houses by undermining their life-blood providing alternative forms of advertising.
Williams therefore said new media must be embraced by the more established media.
“The potential of and possibilities thrown up by the new media will have to be embraced and incorporated in the formats of the more established media” he said.
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