The way we receive information—whether it is the news, data about our surroundings, commercial information, or simply personal communication—has drastically changed with the permeation of internet and digital technologies into our daily lives. The rise of social media platforms has radically altered how we consume information and news throughout the world, for better or worse. Conversely, the new methods with which news and information are packaged—such as blogs, vlogs, podcasts, and more—have created alternative pathways for free speech in environments where the conventional media landscape has become increasingly selective, censored, or even oppressive. Citizens began using their personal devices to spread and curate information; interconnectedness through social media became a method of mobilization. However, these new pathways also meant that information was spreading virally in an unchecked fashion. Disinformation became a powerful tool used by state and non-state actors, public and private entities alike.
This new media landscape is more entropic and crowded, but more accessible, both to the supply side of information and news (journalists), and the demand side (audiences). Despite research showing that television remains the preferred medium of news/information for Middle Eastern societies, there is an undeniable paradigm shift in how societies receive their information/news, and how journalists produce it. To understand some of these new methods and share experiences across countries, the Hollings Center convened a dialogue in Tunis in December 2019. The dialogue covered issues such as new business models for media outlets, diversity in newsrooms, new modes of storytelling, trust in the media, disinformation and misinformation, and the trajectory of the journalism profession.