Marisol Grandon, a colleague at the Home Office, has asked for some help answering the following question:
How do you see the role of government media monitoring developing, taking into account web developments and the changing media landscape?
I am not sure that I am knowledgeable enough about current monitoring practices, but I will give it a go.
Media monitoring is the activity of monitoring the output of the print, online and broadcast media….
… The services that media monitoring companies provide typically include the systematic recording of radio and television broadscasts, the collection of press clippings from print media publications, the collection of data from online information sources. The material collected usually consists of any media output that makes reference to the client, its activities and and/or its designated topics of interests.
Media monitoring is practically achieved by a combination of technologies — including audio and video recording, high speed text scanners and text recognition software — and human readers and analysts.
*For the purpose of this post I will ignore the offline/print media monitoring services, which would not necessarily change*
I am not sure that the methodology of online media monitoring will change too drastically either, although increasingly clever listening services, sophisticated search and easy to set up and use dashboards will make life easier for the Press Officers I am sure. Rather what is being ‘monitored’ would, or should, change.
At risk of putting the noses out of various ‘proper’ journalist friends and colleagues, citizen-generated content is becoming increasingly influential and can very quickly highlight, create or destroy any issue brought to the public attention.
When I read an article or post online, the article/post itself is incomplete for me until I have read the comments too. The comments, often lively debate, seem to set the subject more firmly in my head, and I am more likely to ponder on it and form an opinion – I may be influenced by the arguments tendered, or even by the number of comments – but whatever it is, it is certainly becomes more relevant to me than the article I read in The Guardian on the way into work – or whatever paper I happen to be reading 😉
The reason government (and I suspect any organisation) monitors anything is to:
- know what is being said by whom about government business
- watch for trends/hotspots
- gauge the public mood on a subject
I am positive there are many more things, but to my simplistic mind these would be the main reasons.
With this in mind, monitoring online media becomes a slightly more tricky challenge for government. Because in order to really be fully informed, one must monitor traditional online press, blogs, comments, social networks, discussion forums… everything – but not just using a listening service, keeping an eye out for trigger words – rather using people who can understand the data and translate it into something that would be useful – cue the e-democracy cry.
Yet, as soon as I write this I get the uneasy feeling that by doing such a thing, it would be way too Big Brother and monitoring becomes more chilling a word, and more intrusive an activity.
So, I guess my question would be:
Does government have the right to monitor citizen journalism/citizen-generated content?
(If the answer is yes to that one, then I have a myriad more questions to ask about data protection and how that intellingence can be used)