Globalization is a contemporary phenomenon that elicits controversy in the academic and political arena. It grows from the collapse of state socialism, the cultural ideology of consumerism and the consolidation of capitalism. This combined with the electronic revolution has changed communication media (Movius, 2010, Pg. 3). Mass media is the traditional source of most global information. However, the emergence of cultural globalization changes the traditional flow of information from one source to include the growth of transcontinental flows of information on a larger scale and at a faster rate. The role of the media in this new age communication is not just political and economic but often via cultural globalization. It alters contemporary means of communication thereby opening the door for new trends and practices such as online communities, participatory journalism and transnational activism. This allows an easier flow of information across borders enables users become producers and leads to hybrid media forms (Movius, 2010, Pg. 5).
Today, the emerging trends in the media have changed the traditional organization and economic structures of news media, media production and consumption habits, journalism practices and its legal regulatory frameworks, media freedom, safety, pluralism and independence from the theoretical framework of journalistic practices. In the light of the contemporary media phenomena, it is necessary to evaluate how each concept has changed.
There is a growing recognition that the existing laws need to reconcile with the adoption of freedom of information and access to information. Although information control plays an important part in solving local disputes and global conflicts, legislation should not be a tool to limit press freedom (censorship remains a big challenge to journalism). Three things, necessity, proportionality and legitimacy should govern the free flow of information. (Radsch, 2014, Pg. 10) The period between 2007 and 2012 saw a rise in the number of politically motivated killings of journalists with at least 30% of the 430 who died being killed in 2012. Citizen journalist have become targets for such killings and imprisonment just like their professional counterparts, but impunity remains a dominant force that stops the execution of justice for attacks against journalists. Concern for the safety of journalists has grown with international bodies such as UNESCO, the Human rights Council and UN General Assembly spearheading journalist safety resolutions.
Another trend is with respect to the expansion of production, access, consumption and distribution in media pluralism. There is a growing tendency to move away from state owned media houses in favor of market base ones and even to the privatization of state-owned media. This limits the growth of a pluralistic media society since many people rely on traditional platforms such as television for news. Online sources are a new concept that competes with commercial media houses, which dominate the industry.
Media independence is still a struggle due to the nature of political and commercial pressures that media operators face. Despite globalization contributing to better access to information, the media industry has not addressed the changes in media convergence from traditional mediums to online media (Movius, 2010, Pg. 11). Weak business models cause overreliance on patronage funding for many media firms, this in turn gives room for independent journalistic organizations to grow as instruments of independent journalism. Rising popularity of user-generated content comes with questions about the media ethics on security and privacy as well as the boundaries of journalism and its legitimacy.
Over the past six years, professional and regulatory bodies have begun recognizing and addressing the gender-based exclusions in their structural policies (Radsch, 2014, Pg. 15). This has seen a rise in the number of women involved in the production and distribution of the news due to the fact that online media provides a platform for women to contribute news and their opinion to the public sphere. Despite this, the media stereotypes and misconceptions about having women working in media corporate environment still exist and so does the proverbial glass ceiling.
Given these trends in the contemporary media, what does the future hold for students who pursue a degree in media studies? First, students need to identify the skills they have gained in school to make informed choices about the media and mass communication. Vocational courses give students hands-on experience in skills such as filming, writing and conducting interviews. The rapid pace in technological development requires an understanding of how to use social media to communicate since print media is on the decline in favor of production and journalistic skills. Graduates with an understanding of how to communicate effectively with various audiences are suited for working in public relations while those who are techno-savvy can easily work in jobs that rely on multimedia to communicate (online platforms). Broadcast journalism and writing for magazines/ newspapers is also a career option for students who do not prefer working in advertising and marketing as media planners, adverting account managers, copywriters and market analysts (Swondon, 2010, April 24).
Better still, media studies graduates have the opportunity to contribute and change how the media industry works by questioning its concepts and contexts of news reporting. For example, how the public perceive gender stereotypes and whether this has an impact on the challenges people face in the corporate world. The debate on how far governments can push the liberties of freedom of expression in the name of security is a controversial one given the rise of terrorism and cyber-crime in the society. Another context is the dynamic role of the media in globalization and cultural appreciation in the growing online community.
Movius, L. (2010). Cultural Globalization and Challenges to Traditional Communication Theories. PLATFORM: Journal of Media and Communication, 2(1), 13.
Radsch, C. C. (2014). World trends in freedom of expression and media development. France: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Swondon, G. (2010, April 24). What to do with a degree in media studies. The Guardian. Retrieved October 15, 2014, from http://www.theguardian.com/money/2010/apr/24/degree-media-studies