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A Barrier of Entry for Information; the problem
Who the hell knows who they are?
Jon Stewart is as iconic as he is sharp in both wit and humour. To a young mind as my own back in 2008, I thought he pioneered the format of highlighting serious political issues through genuine comedy and satire on The Daily Show. Whether you agreed or disagreed with his political stances and choice methods of tackling day-to-day issues, you couldn’t deny the powerhouse of charisma and influence he had.
I remember an interview I watched in 2010. It was all the buzz online, and being a self-proclaimed “leftist cuck”, it was my sworn duty to join the herd and watch all his TV appearances with religious fervour. So, I hopped onto YouTube and right there on Larry King Live, a simple exchange between them on receiving tweets from viewers to CNN.
Stewart: “Now this is a problem, News people shouldn’t be going ‘We’ve got some tweets’” “It’s like you walked out in the middle of this and said, “Eh, I was in a bathroom and a guy mentioned to me- uh- ya know”
King: “Well, these are human beings and they are tweeting us, do you have no respect for them?”
Stewart: “No – I don’t know who they are. They could be pretending to be- who the hell knows who they are”
I guess which brings me to my point of the “problem”, journalistic integrity in the age where Digital Publishers and Social Media work in tandem, you virtually can’t have one without the other. The Dynamics of this relationship have become a staple for Media; it acts as a quick way of collating information and first account news – in many instances this could prove helpful in emergency situations or natural disasters. What about news that the journalist can’t verify, news that is factually untrue or prove detrimental when educating their readers? Why would I listen to every Tom, Dick and Harry that comes out with their own version of a story? Do we not have a barrier of entry for sources anymore?
Immediacy over Accuracy
In Media, speed and immediacy trump at the top, much to my dissatisfaction that this is the case. After all, with news distributed on the net, you want to be the source of it rather than a second-hand bandwagon to the party.
While publishers with bigger budgets and bigger media presences tend to avoid this, the majority of smaller players over-saturate the market with repackaged and reiterated stories. I don’t blame publishers for having the habit of just rewording and hacking away pieces to get things out fast, it is the very nature to keep your readers well informed, but work pressure can make a man do things – immediacy takes precedence over verification of story and extra research. Very rarely is any additional journalistic work involved, because there are too many small publishers competing to get the story out first.
I don’t particularly think this evolving and game-changing method of journalism is bad per se. I’m just asking/It’s just, is the problem of accuracy, reliability and integrity something that can be mitigated, and if so, how?
A journalist could spend hours looking into backlogs of Facebook comment threads and twitter feeds with no assurance of accuracy. Between Social Media Bots, Satire, User Rants on a drunken Friday evening, Sponsored Advertisement, and frequent Newsjacking, the modern day journalist needs to be well prepared in the wake of the information age and the infamous “post-truth” era. With how easily things can be shared, do users and journalists alike have a social responsibility to ensure accurate information is spread sensibly?
Social media, factual responsibility
The average Facebook user does not spend their time writing and checking through their own postings through an unbiased lens. Who has time for that? They have no social responsibility to ensure everything that comes out on their pages are factual. I spend more of my time online scouring through 1 year old memes and trying to troll the average angry commenter with my obviously well-researched point of view.
“THIS IS A CAT, HOW DARE YOU ARGUE WITH MY DEGREE IN ZOOLOGY AND OBVIOUS SUPERIOR KNOWLEDGE IN HOUSEHOLD PETS??!!”
I hope this isn’t a surprise to you but… people lie online all the time. I lied about my age to view my first porn site. I lied about my weight when I was still insecure about it. I lied about being a strong independent woman because I enjoyed the perceptive false sense of superiority I’ve developed from it. Lying and misinformation goes hand in hand. Friends still think I am alive and exist because I post on Instagram,3 month old pictures once in a while and it’s great!
You can’t filter lies since these are self inputed by the user. Theoretically, I could post an outrageous lie and turn it into “truth” if it spreads around enough. Which brings me back to the journalism part of this. What can the average journalist do nowadays to combat this?
Algorithims: I know best for you
Like your mother who knows what is best for you, she probably has your path and road laid out clean. Dirty laundry gets picked up and tossed away from your prying eyes. Dear mother Algorithim takes things a little TOO far. In this case, your laundry doesn’t exist, they probably never existed and you have no idea how to verify that and/or to get them back. If it wasn’t clear, the dirty laundry is a metaphor for all the content you’ve probably scrolled past over the years.
Facebook Algorithms are more advanced than ever, and it can read your probable political alignment solely based on the articles you share, the posts you comment on and the friends you have. With the recent Facebook Scandal of Cambridge Analytica and Mark Zuckerberg, this affirms that innate fear even more; I can’t even trust the articles I scroll past. What you see, is not something you tailor for yourself, it probably has been tailored for you. Ads do this all the time, look at one matte lipstick on Sephora and get ready to see the ad on your newsfeed for the rest of your internet life.
Social Media; redefining “news worthy content”
For news and interactivity, many publishers see the worth of their story by the number of shares, likes and comments it receives. It indicates two things to them:
- This is something that people want to/enjoy reading. And more offensively,
- This is the new standard for news-worthy content that is hitting the market.
This will directly further goad on journalists and publishers on what stories they are willing to cover and to what extent. It doesn’t help if your readers are more attuned to gossip, tabloid-esq content. Your platform, like it or not, will be directly influenced by your readers in this way if you allow it.
Who else is gonna do this?
I feel like I’m leaving this article with more questions than I do answers. I guess all I can hope for, is that as part the publishers out there, we can all try to do a little better – play our part in journalistic integrity and accuracy in reporting.
After all, if we don’t do it, who will?