Approaching Conflicts
Contexts, Perspectives, and Values in Israel Education

Discussion #1: Social Media and Conflict

Toolkit Discussion Guide
  • What are some of the advantages of everyone having the ability to report world news?

  • What are some of the disadvantages of getting the news from anyone with a phone?

  • The way we get news has always developed and evolved. Should social media be the new way to consume news?

Reporters cannot be everywhere all the time. Having people report the news from where they are allows us instant access to events around the world. Additionally, smart phones can transmit images from events in real time. In an extreme event (hurricane, school violence, terror attack, war), reporters may not have instant access while a civilian with a camera who is there, does. It is another way to allow the world a glimpse into events as they unfold.

On the other hand, journalists are trained. They understand the importance of reporting news in a (hopefully) unbiased and objective way. We are in danger of losing that objectivity if news is reported in an uneditorialized way. Journalists also have the legal and ethical responsibility to check their facts before reporting the news. A person with her iPhone does not have the same rigid guidelines before uploading a photo on Instagram. Further, many individuals who assume the role of on-site reporters may not be uninvolved bystanders, but individuals who are motivated to assume this role for political or ideological reasons. In some of these cases, the fine lines between news, propaganda, and advocacy are blurred.  

The real question we need to explore is: can we count on social media to have the same integrity as mainstream news outlets? The reality is even mainstream news outlets have reputations for expressing specific viewpoints. Fox News, for example, takes a more conservative view than CNN. Maybe we are already at a place in journalistic choices that we pick the news that most reflects our interests and beliefs.