Salcudean and Muresan’s article “The Emotional Impact of Traditional and New Media in Social Events” provides insight into the interweaving of traditional and new media in reporting social events, through the case study of the Bucharest nightclub fire that took 64 lives on October 30, 2015. Although the article focuses on the emotional layer of the blending between traditional and new media news reporting, it nonetheless touches upon a paradigm shift in the public sphere brought about by this blending.
As the article points out, new media content are being picked up by traditional media is because (1) it is much more convenient for journalists to pick up ready-made user-authored content for news reporting, and (2) the monetary incentive which has to do with the increase in rating and traffic. What is first and foremost interesting to the reader is the way in which the inclusion of new media in news reporting changes the mode of discourse in the public sphere, particularly regarding the question of whose voices get privileged in civil debates. In the traditional public sphere, which is generally sustained by traditional media, the usual determinants of whose voices would be heard lie along the lines of race, class, and gender. The increased involvement of new media content in news reporting, however, introduces the Facebook algorithm as an additional determinant. The quote from journalist Nick Denton speaks for itself: “We [journalists] were slaves to the Facebook algorithm.” Facebook algorithm places the most popular—hence to a certain degree “the most important”—information and/or opinions in the spotlight. And the algorithm has its own set of rules, which has to do with virility and the affective quality of information and opinions. Therefore, in addition to traditional news outlets, the use of data from Zelist.ro, which is the important platform for social media monitoring in Romania, is especially fitting in this article to highlight and recognize the impact new media has on news reporting.
The blending of social media and mainstream media allows a new class of influencers in the public sphere. For instance, in the case of the Romanian nightclub fire, artist Tudoe Chirila, who occupies first place in the Zelist ranking, had huge influence in mobilizing young people to protest against the political class in the street. As a result, days of civil pressure from the streets coerced Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta to resign. This shows a fundamental shift of political power in the public sphere, which is brought about by the blending between traditional and new media news reporting.