Experts agree on responsible, influential role of digital media

KUWAIT: There have been divergent views over the pros and cons of the digitalization of the Kuwaiti media sector in recent years, involving the quality of digital media platforms and their news credibility, let alone the role of social media. The Kuwaiti media sector has introduced digital technology in an inescapable step that aims at revamping production and publication and providing media content in a speedier and more effective mode. Kuwait News Chief Abdullah Boftain opined that both digital and conventional media entities are playing a complementary role in digital media transformation.

Abdullah Boftain

“In the process of our digital transformation at Kuwait Times newspaper and Kuwait News media establishment, we combined heritage with modernity, traditional content with new content, as well as Arabic and English languages, twinning between Kuwait News electronic newspaper and Kuwait Times English newspaper,” said Boftain, who is also the Deputy Editor-in-Chief of Kuwait Times, the first English daily in Kuwait and the Gulf region. Kuwait News, on the other hand, is considered among the first news providers to be launched in Kuwait through short messages (SMS) and was the first to become a licensed e-paper by the Ministry of Information in 2006.

“Our role in the private sector is to study changes and absorb the daily updates that occur in our field, stay up to date on the latest trends in content creation, interact with content creators and deal with the challenges facing print journalism and traditional media which is going through the most difficult period in Kuwait and the rest of the world,” he said. Boftain added that digital transformation is a reality for the most prestigious newspapers and international media establishments. While some of them succeeded in gradual transformation and reaching a new generation of readers and followers, he said, others are suffering from unsuccessful repeated attempts.

“The role of the government sector (in the process of digital transformation) is to interact with the private sector experience and provide continuous support by embracing new content creators and facilitating joint projects between the public and private sectors, given that the state has the financial resources that enable it to support the sustainability of the private sector,” he said. Quality of media content Media content is no longer limited to what gets published on platforms or in print, said Boftain, as content creators, whether individuals or establishments, are publishing content of all kinds and have become true competitors for traditional and prestigious establishments.

“Amid this surge of content, we find material that is sublime. But at the same time, we also find creators publishing material that is not related to professional journalism in any way, with their sole focus being on content which generates views regardless of ethical considerations, getting a scoop even if it threatened credibility and sensationalism away from social responsibility,” he said. “Most news platforms are satisfied with recycling existing news items, publishing ready-made pieces and relying on news agencies and official sources without attempting to create original content.” Boftain also touched on the role of social media in disseminating news and influencing the public.

Kuwait Times employees work at their desks at the Kuwait Times and Kuwait News office on Sahafa Street.

“Front-page headlines and how news is worded or conveyed are no longer the only factors determining whether media affects public opinion and decision makers,” he said. In fact, Boftain said, a variety of content, including news reports, exclusives, advertisements, podcasts, infographics and interviews, all contribute to forming and influencing public opinion. “However, if the public has a high level of awareness, they can differentiate between bad and good content. Although bad content, such as scandals or that which relies on bullying some segments of the population based on their looks, dialects and ideologies, may gain a huge number of views but it is, without a doubt, at odds with well-respected media and its societal message.”

Social responsibility over clicks Boftain said credibility and accuracy in conveying the news precedes focus on getting the scoop at Kuwait News and Kuwait Times. “Social responsibility is more important than the number of views or creating fake interaction as adopted by some media. It is our duty to verify the news and its sources, and make sure it meets the profession’s ethical standards before publication,” he said. The dominance of advertising and commercial content over investigative journalistic content is one of the most notable challenges facing journalism in the digital transformation process, according to Boftain. “We need to revive true journalism work and qualify a new generation of professional journalists who work in the field, content creators and journalistic investigators.

The digital transformation must not make us forget the ethics of journalistic work and that journalism is a mission,” he said. The pros of digital transformation, he added, are the existence of comprehensive journalists who can independently create content and the influx of young content creators with various messages and styles. “By creating a good work environment, ensuring journalistic freedom and providing training programs, media organizations may succeed in digital transformation without affecting the true essence and mission of journalism.” Difficult to keep track Dr Ahmad Al-Kandari, professor of media and public relations at Kuwait University, said digital transformation has enabled everyone to gain easy access to media platforms in order to communicate with followers.

Naser Al-Otaibi

Speaking to KUNA, he listed the advantages of media digitalization as primarily helping governmental institutions to have their own media platforms to directly communicate with people and steer public opinion. But the Kuwaiti professor admitted that with this swiftly developing media revolution, it has become very difficult for people in general and media specialists and academics in particular to keep abreast of this transformation. “It has become inevitable to read and always follow up on new research (in media digitalization) with a view to developing learning in the media space,” he said.

Concerning the role of social media in society, the Kuwaiti academic stressed that social media platforms, including ones with specific agendas and purposes, are now playing a big role in influencing people and that’s why rules and controls should be set for the virtual space. Al-Jarida Deputy Managing Editor Naser Al-Otaibi said media digitalization would lead to the “birth of new Kuwaiti media”, in both public and private sectors, and would combine between both old and new mass media.

Digital media platforms play a supportive role for paper media and reflect media institutions’ orientations, he said, believing that social media has an undeniable role to play in reporting and influencing audiences and even decision-makers. But he cast doubts about the credibility of new content found on social media in general, sounding the alarm that this could negatively affect public opinion in any society.

The post Experts agree on responsible, influential role of digital media appeared first on Kuwait Times.

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