The Future of News in an Age of Social Media

Posted on: 24 April 2018

‘The Future of News in an Age of Social Media’ was discussed by leaders in business and media at a recent packed event at Trinity on April 11th last. The speakers included Mark Little, CEO of  NevaLabs, Olivia O’Leary journalist, Vinay Nair, CEO of Lightful and  Rupert Pennant-Rea, Chairman of The Economist Group. Students and the wider College community and public gathered for the event which was organised by the School of Social Sciences and Philosophy, as part of Trinity Week. Professor Gail McElroy, Head of the School, chaired the event which also celebrated Dr O’Leary’s recent award of an Honorary Doctorate by Trinity.

For almost three decades, the web has changed the world and revolutionised how information is stored, published, searched and consumed. The effects of the internet have spread so wide that it impacts not just businesses and consumers but crosses over into politics and the media, and breaches geographical locations and cultural boundaries. Has the internet distorted and marginalised accurate and reflective news reporting, or is it simply the case that the traditional news outlets are not dead but merely adapting to the new reality? Is social media a force for good or a dark energy contributing to civilisation’s decline? The distinguished panel of speakers discussed these points in their talks. For those who missed the event, you can now listen back to each of their talks:

Mark Little on “The Social News Feed is dead ? long live news”

The rise of social platforms has created revolutionary changes in how the world gets its news. It has never been easier for an individual to discover information that is relevant to their lives. But those who value knowledge often feel powerless in the face of an overwhelming deluge of information, distraction and manipulation. As the backlash against social media picks up pace, Mark lays out his vision for the renewal of trust in journalism in the post-Facebook age.

Olivia O’Leary on “Pay for your News, Cheapskates!”

Social media has sold to a whole generation the idea that they shouldn’t have to pay for news.  As people get their news free on Facebook and Twitter, much of it taken from reliable media outlets, advertisers follow. Those same reliable outlets lose subscribers and advertising revenue, and are subsequently in danger of collapse. Without reliable monitored news, the citizen is too easily manipulated and democracy suffers.  We have given social media free rein for far too long.  It’s time to act.

Vinay Nair on “Can Civic Engagement make Social Media a Force for Good?”

During a time of mass negativity, is there anything positive that can be said about social media? In his talk, Vinay will delve deeper into how social media can affect news “from the bottom up” and explore where there might be cause for optimism. He will showcase good news stories and examples of civic engagement, of partnership, where people connected with people, and when magic happened. In a rapidly evolving landscape, for news and communication, Vinay asks us to consider what more we can do to influence key stakeholders and make a difference in the world.

Rupert Pennant-Rea on “Legacy Media Companies in the Digital Age”

Diminished ad revenues and bleak financial models have plagued many traditional media companies. With people accustomed to getting information for free online, are they willing to pay for news? And are the recent attacks on the press’s credibility reawakening support for quality news reporting? With a career spanning over forty years in journalism Rupert is well placed to consider the challenges facing the media industry in the digital age. In his talk Rupert explores how different media companies are pursuing very different strategies. Some are working, some are not, and all will need to keep adjusting.


 Mark Little, Gail McElroy, Rupert Pennant-Rea, Olivia O’Leary & Vinay Nair.

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