Popular uprisings against autocratic governments in Tunisia and Egypt have been fueled by Twitter and Facebook, according to media reports. That’s a dramatic demonstration of the power of the Internet and new social media to carry information and dramatically shape the world.
We welcome that new technology, and we celebrate the promise of such social media networks in complementing and expanding the audience for journalism conducted by newspapers, television and radio.
But as a new generation embraces new forms of expression — Twitter, Facebook, and personal blogs, to name but a few — some observers have wondered if there is still a role for newspapers.
Institutional media — and more particularly, print newspapers — continue to perform a lot of important work that is not easily undertaken by individual bloggers and the diffuse network of social media. Here we must blow our own horn.
One prominent example is The Advocate’s pursuit of records of an internal affairs investigation of alleged misconduct by officers of the Baton Rouge Police Department. After the Police Department refused to release the records, The Advocate sued to have the records released, engaging in a court battle of more than four years that cost more than $60,000 in legal expenses.
The litigation eventually was resolved in The Advocate’s favor, and the newspaper was able to recoup most of its legal expenses from the city-parish.
The records of the internal affairs investigation, when they eventually were released, raised questions about the professional conduct of some members of the Baton Rouge Police Department.
The records would not have come to light without The Advocate’s lawsuit. This kind of vigilance of government institutions is an important safeguard
within a democracy, but it also can be very expensive.
Individual bloggers and Tweeters typically don’t have these kinds of resources.
That’s why so-called “traditional media” such as newspapers should continue to be important as the media landscape continues to evolve.
-The Baton Rouge Advocate