Social media are not only information source but also a tool of influence – editor La Vanguardia newspaper


Spanish and Ukrainian media professionals envisage how blogosphere and social media are changing media landscape. They also discuss ways for professionals and readers to act in the changing environment.  

“Social media are not only a source of information but also a tool of influence,” said Marina Meseguer, editor at La Vanguardia newspaper, speaking at a panel discussion at the VI Spanish-Ukrainian Forum of Journalism “Public opinion and civil society in times of crisis: media narrative” held at Ukraine Crisis Media Center. Meseguer shared her own journalistic experience, particularly the experience she had when covering events of the so-called Arab Spring. “I belong to the first generation of journalists having worked with social media fom the beginning of their career,” Meseguer said.

The editor said when covering developments in Ukraine from Spain it could be hard to sort things out and find the right answers that’s why it is important to have Ukrainian partners. Internet trolls that sometimes have more than 10 accounts on Facebook and are publishing a minimum of three posts per day, as well as hackers make it even more difficult. Foreign media outlets uneagerly turn to local information sources, while social media and tweets in particular can often be regarded as fragmented and subjective.

“Being journalist and media professional I suddenly discovered unexpected opportunities that social networks provide. It was not immediately that I realized how to use them,” said blogger Myroslav Gai. Revolution of Dignity became a telling example of how people united their efforts and were able to quickly react to calls thanks to the information shared on Facebook. Being also a combat veteran, Gai said social networks at war were playing an important role in establishing communication between military units, intelligence and local residents that needed help. This is the way it was in the occupied Sloviansk.

“Social networks may often slop untrue information, but it happens just because someone wants it that way,” Gai emphasized. Media often use bloggers’ posts as the only information source for a news piece and it is not always good. Marina Meseguer added that when preparing a material, the media outlet she is representing – La Vanguardia may be using bloggers’ posts as additional source. “When the person has to think, clarify and verify things in chaos, the influence of propaganda is annulled,” summarized Gai adding that it stimulates to check sources and find the answers by themselves. He also spoke about an online resource where people volunteer to translate materials of Ukrainian media into English for international audience.

Martyn Brest, blogger, host at Army FM radio, shared his experience of working with Facebook in zone of combat: “Ten months ago we used to direct fire using Facebook Messenger.” Facebook has also become a tool to get to know people better, where one may share her feelings, fears and joys.

Francisco Borja Lasheras, head of the Madrid office of the European Council on Foreign Relations, noted that blogosphere is a space where there are no rules and many risks when covering sensitive issues. “Journalists need to communicate more with civil society,” he emphasized. Government also needs not to stay away. Hanna Korbut, foreign desk editor at “Ukrainian week” newspaper, said that “people share posts on social networks as if they were facts, and it represents a problem.” Moreover not everyone reads the material from the beginning till the end, limiting themselves to the title only. As a result they make wrong conclusions. The audience itself needs to grow up instead of complaining about authorities or media that they present the information in a wrong way. However journalists themselves have to know how to work with sources. Big part of Ukraine’s population does not have full access to information, limiting themselves to TV only.