With the advent of digital technology, the media industry has been dramatically altered and transformed from a traditional informative format based on a one-way interaction to a user-based, multiple interactive and community format. As a result, savvy technocrats are quick to challenge the functionality of the newspaper’s role in this digital age, disputing their capacity to perform the various functions of the mass media in the modern society such as its role as the fourth estate of a country. However, there are traditionalists who still see newspaper as a contributive institution that will promote the interests of the society. In view of these controversial opinions, this essay is more inclined to the view that the newspaper has no role to play in this digital age as it is not functional as social media platforms.

For those who still share a nostalgic attachment with newspaper, they view it as a source of information to help them understand more about the world. The newspaper has been an orderly and organized source of information which appeals to them as they are familiar with the structure and approach on how news are transmitted to them. In Singapore, some of local Chinese newspaper like Shinmin Daily News and Lianhe WanPao are appealing to readers as they report local incidents and domestic issues that are close to the hearts of the older and heartland readers. Likewise, Financial Times and Wall Street Journal appeal to professionals for their informative insights to the financial, economic and political issues. The newspapers are informative to the readers as they are comfortable with a structural way on how they receive information and has become part of their way of life that helped these readers to stay informed about the world.

However, luddites who are skeptical of the functional roles of the newspaper are quick to show the limitations of newspaper in the digital age in fulfilling their informative role, given their limited space of information which it can provide based on its format of presentation. In a paper format, the information given by the newspaper is limited by the space listed in the paper. Compared to digital format, the information provided by the digital media is immense and extensive. Readers can access the information through a video and attain a variety source of information through many collaborative platforms like Wikipedia and Wikis projects and content community news media platforms like Flickr, SlideShare and Youtube. The newspaper’s role as a source of information is limited when compared to these new social media platforms which are able to provide information in vast quantity and interlinked approach, through lively audio and visual presentation and at great convenience with instant and real-time updating, asserting the view that there is no longer an informative role for the newspaper to play in this digital age.

When we further examine the other roles of this traditional medium, we will agree with the view that the newspaper plays a diminished or insignificant role in many aspects. One role that it has failed to perform is its educational role in our modern society. It is undeniable that the mass media perform this function in educating the public on how to conduct their lives socially, economically and politically as they highlight the social norms, economics opportunities, legal regulation and political development which will affect the lives of the people. The functionality of the newspaper is no longer as effective as the social media as it is not as demonstrative and illustrative in effects, given that the education process is done only through description and narration while social media present a more stimulating education process in terms of visual and audio impact on the audience. Furthermore, the social media encourage participation and interaction which will engage the individuals to participate actively. One can also search more information online through Wikipedia and on-line learning platforms like Khan Academy and Codeacademy. Some of the YouTube videos made by social portals like The School of Life also seeks to educate the society on how to conduct their lives in this complexed world. More lively way of presentation and vast information provided by social media will make the newspaper archaic and obsolete in playing the educational role in this digital age.

From the moral and behavioural aspect, the traditional mass media often act as the moral compass for the society as it is able to uphold the moral code of the society by influencing the perception and instilling the values to guide their moral values and behaviours, especially for the youth who are most vulnerable to succumb to moral degradation. It is more difficult for the newspaper to function in this digital age as the readership for paper form of news is dwindling, implying the influential impact of the newspaper will diminish too. This is preeminently observed on how the newspaper has affected the youth, where its effect is futile and minimum. Furthermore, any social campaign runs through the social media will definitely be able get the attention of the youths due it omnipresence and interactive form of influence, thus raising their influence on moral values of the youths. For example, we can observe how the social media campaigns used by those who pro LGBT stance and those who are against this stance as in the Pink dot and the white dot movement. Such intra-civic conflict is unlikely to be debated extensively in traditional newspaper due to its sensitivity and controversy.

Politically, the newspaper is often criticized for being used a political tool by the state to set out propaganda against the democratization of the society, failing to uphold itself as the fourth estate that regulate the society. The nature of the newspaper as an institution make it easy for the state to use it to control the masses in the interest of the politicians and the business owners. Very often, the freedom of speech that our society upholds dearly is distorted and upheld in the interest of the press owners, rather not in the interest of the people. On the other hand, social media platform allows the masses the platform to voice out political injustice and suppression by dictatorship against the people, proving that the newspaper will not uphold the interests of the society. This is greatly observed in the Arab Spring in 2011 where the social media platform like Instagram and Twitter play vital roles in the upstage against the dictatorship of the regime of the nations in the Arab league, proving that the social media are more effective than newspaper as an institution in performing its political role in promoting democracy.

In conclusion, the advent of technology in revolutionizing the mass media has profound impact on how the mass media will affect the society and her people. The traditional paper format of newspaper will definitely lose its influential status and cease to play a role in the society. It is important for us to understand this change as we still have to use the mass media or social media to perform their crucial functional roles to uphold the interests of the society and her people.

In the digital age do newspaper still have a role in your society?

Author: Simon Ng

Category: Mass Media

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