The recent tiff between Assistant Secretary for Communications Mocha Uson and certain members of the Malacañang Press Corps over the proposed reclassification of online magazine Rappler as "social media" provoked some discussion in news media circles, prompting many to push the notion that the online publication is a blog rather than a member of "mainstream media.”
It led many mainstream media practitioners to opine on their social media accounts, coming to Rappler's defense and pushing its purported role as chief government critic and social conscience.
It also spurred many bloggers to give their proverbial two cents’. It should be noted that many of them include journalists themselves, taking to their blogs and social media accounts.
The publications they all belong to have social media accounts themselves, and work hard to achieve high levels of “engagement," to compete for attention and following in a new platform where everyone has the right to speak, report and write.
A look at all the major newspapers in the Philippines shows just how much thinner they have become. Have people been getting more of their news from online editions through social media? It certainly seems like so.
Truth is, their social media engagements far outweigh their print readership 50 to 1. Fifty million Filipinos are on Facebook, while roughly only a million read newspapers. Social media clearly rules.
Three things emerge out of this discourse.
One, that the lines between journalists and bloggers have all but blurred, creating an obvious competiton for the eyes and ears of the media-consuming public.
Two, that it cements the role that bloggers and social media influencers play in generating and channeling news and information, just like journalists. That some bloggers have a higher online engagement means that more people read and follow them then they do mainstream publications.
And three, that while mainstream media practitioners dislike being compared to bloggers, the fact that they like to put out their biases on their personal blogs and social media accounts only means that social media matters to them.
Noting this, bloggers have been gaining ground while mainstream journalists lose some of the precious audience to them and the wider world of social media, where they post to get wider reach for their articles, but where their own readers are exposed to a wider array of material to compete with their content.
That said, social media appears to be the way forward for journalism as we traditionally know it. Otherwise, it will likely fade away in its own irrelevance.