Jay Rosen enthusiastically voices his dissent for mainstream media in “The People Formerly Known as the Audience.” The chapter expresses a revolt of the public against the oppression once exerted by powerful media such as the printing press, radio and television. Rosen claims that new media overturns the top-down divulgence of information by giving previously silent audiences the means by which they too can share their important opinions. The audience is now “[a]ctive” (14) and “refers to the owners and operators of tools that were once exclusively used by media people to capture and hold their attention” (14).
Rosen emphasizes the freedom attained from new technology as that of greater control: “We graduate from wanting media when we want it to wanting it without the filler, to wanting media to be way better than it is […]” (14). I would argue instead that the role of the two genres, traditional and new media, is distinct, in which case one does not dissolve or exercise control over the other.
Online communication is more a discussion of what mainstream media conveys rather than a generator of new information. Often people upload clips they saw on television or aggressively agree or disagree with a newspaper article. Traditional media feeds new media in this way. But Rosen is correct in implying a “balance of power” (15) that ensues from such a relationship because people can now respond to the information they are receiving. And their response allows for social change not only in favor of the journalistic mantra to “represent all sides of a story”, but also to “make a difference” in the context of civic responsibility.
Furthermore, traditional media as an institution has greater credibility because it is held liable to depict accurate information and follow a certain set of rules and ethics. It is (supposed to be) fed by trained professionals and research. These guidelines are almost nonexistent in cyberspace. We cannot hold people responsible for what they write on their blogs because it is understood that the author’s opinion plays an important role in this genre and that he or she may not have any authenticity to speak on a certain subject. Mainstream media is held accountable for its behaviour both by the public, through outlets provided by new media, and by other institutions of power such as the legal system. So Rosen’s assertion that new media represents a “realer, less fictional, more able, less predictable” public is highly generalized and would depend on individual instances.
Rosen, Jay. “The People Formerly Known as the Audience.” The Social Media Reader. Ed. Michael Mandiberg. New York: New York University Press, 2012.