Sam Pitroda’s Twitter press conference on “Democratising the media” is a sign of things to come

Sam Pitroda, the Prime Minister’s Adviser on Public Information Infrastructure and Innovations will have a press conference tomorrow. He has done hundreds of pressers in his lifetime, so why are we excited about this? Because this will be a first of it’s kind. The policy maker, widely known as the man behind the country’s telecom revolution, will conduct the presser for the first time on Twitter.

Sam Pitroda's Twitter Press Conference
Sam Pitroda's Twitter Press Conference

Given the 140 character limit on Twitter and its limited interactivity compared to other options on the Internet, it does look a bit gimmicky from the outside. Nonetheless, we feel that this will be a trend going forward with politicians, government officials and industry leaders opting for virtual press conferences. It clearly signals that traditional media’s power is waning. Gujarat Chief Minister’s well attended G+ hangout is another example.

But why is he doing it? The topic of his press conference is “Democratisation of Media.” Surely it has something to do with the Internet and that could be one reason. We have a few theories as to what it might be but won’t waste time here trying to second guess Mr Pitroda.

Increasing distrust on mainstream media

There is perhaps another, more fundamental, reason to why Sam Pitroda is bypassing traditional media. Increasing distrust of the mainstream media is a reason why the Internet is slowly becoming a medium of mandarin discourse. In America, a recent poll shows that the distrust in mainstream media is at an all time high. Of late, scandal after scandal has exposed a tacit understanding between the media and subjects of their reportage in India. The common perception that media can be easily bought or coerced into favorable  reportage has also undermined its credibility as the fourth pillar of democracy.

Such pressers have advantages and limitations. One can hope to cut costs, reach a wider audience and have more control over the  conference. Ideally, a press conference with mainstream reporters would require you to shell out on expensive conference halls and the works.  But now, all you need for a press conference is a computer and internet connection. One can reach a wide set of audience online.

Compared to offline pressers, which is limited to local reporters and television channels, this mode has a wider reach. Even non-journalists, bloggers and citizen reporters can attend. And importantly, one doesn’t have to be afraid of being misquoted. Certain biases media houses are frequently accused  of, can also be kept at bay.

Limitation

Such press conferences might have one drawback though: they might lack the rigor with which questions are hurled at the officials during a traditional press conference. The person conducting a press conference can choose to ignore tough questions. Its easier for dodgy politicians and high handed officials to slip through. There is also a possibility of too much noise as too many people try to ask too many questions. One hopes that these problems will go away as the medium matures.

But then, this is the beginning.

The times they are a-changin.

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