Traditional citizens would seek local news from their local newspaper or their regional news program, nevertheless, these mediums in many regional areas are yet to undertake a digital shift. We are still seeing local news coverage continue its analogue flow, where the audience are not able to reply to the medium with further information or spark debate. Many current programs promote a Twitter conversation and news websites will provide a comment section allowing debate. By utilising digital mediums as a method of communication expands the efforts of a joint discussion and sharing of information. This allows more individuals to freely express their opinions and protests.
Traditional news mediums are embracing the digital change and providing more digital content or opportunities for online debates. However, it seems that the political sphere is being left behind, specifically local Councils. President Obama was the first political leader to effectively utilise social media and capitalized on modern participatory culture (Losh 2012 p. 256), we have started to see Australian politicians undertake social media campaigns, though it has not filtered down to local Councils.
Holland (2015 pp.1-8) argues that local Councils, specifically in the Illawarra area (New South Wales), are not utilising current participatory culture. They are asking for feedback through their social media channels though they rarely seem to take these opinions on board, rather they often will direct constituents to official channels. This is degrading new participatory democracy, constituents are turning to social media platforms to raise their concerns for their community, rather than councils taking this into account, it seems they are ignoring feedback received through these channels.
The only effective use of these mediums is the ability to share informational posts as was seen during the bushfire period of the study (Holland 2015 p.5). These mediums allow the information to be shared and reached by numerous amount of individuals with ease unlike press releases which take time and may not be reached by many. They also allow correction of information to any false or misleading information that has been given through informal channels. This is significant, as eighty five percent of audiences will undertake further research on other platforms after consuming their main source (Rosentiel 2013). Nevertheless, Holland (2015) found often Councils did not utilise the hashtag feature on Twitter therefore, significantly decreasing their reach.
Local Councils need to utilise social media more effectively. Social media has seen the rise of participatory democracy yet these Councils have been shown to ignore any direct feedback and activism received on their digital media. Even if they can’t officially use the opinions presented they can use it as a starting point for research into the issue or even personally reply to the individual through the same medium.
Holland, T. A. 2015, ‘Social networks as sites of e-participation in local government’, Global Media Journal – Australian Edition, vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 1-8.
Losh, E 2012, ‘Channelling Obama: YouTube, Flickr and the Social Media President’, Comparative American Studies, Vol. 10, No. 2-3, pp. 255-268.
Rosenstiel, T 2013, The Future of Journalism: Tom Rosenstiel at TEDxAtlanta, YouTube (Online Video), 28th May, Tedx Talks YouTube Channel, Viewed 23rd December 2015, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RuBE_dP900Y>>