In an age where microblogging is the new blogging and social media is king, it is not surprising that most of us internet junkies get our daily fix of global events and top news stories from our laptops rather than our newspapers. Exposure to trending news is unavoidable since it pervades every aspect of our online lives. From frenzied Tweeting to debates on friends’ Facebook walls about recent developments in healthcare reform, public opinion and commentary are nearly inescapable.
In a sense we are seeing a downfall in journalistic integrity. Most sources of news interject sensationalism and media bias liberally throughout their news stories in order to garner large audiences and even larger profits. However navigate to the closest grocery store, sometimes even those known for their stellar journalism cannot adequately provide their consumers with the quality of information they require.
There is no sense in knowing something big is happening if we don’t know why it’s happening, or the whole story. Some popular and credible sources of quality journalism have started to provide political, economic and social commentary rather than simply laying out the bare facts for their readers because the truth is that sometimes even the bare facts are fabricated and manipulated. Some would even say that it is the responsibility of news corporations to provide news analysis, to evaluate facts and present their readers with a comprehensive and informative assessment of what is really going on in the world, not just what the bare facts seem to imply.
The 21st century news consumer doesn’t just want to know what is making the news. He or she also wants to know the why and hows behind the stories. We no longer let the big news corporations tell them us what is going on in the world- we actively seek and interpret various sources of news in order to make sense of our world- and then we post our findings online to share with the world. There is no doubt that social media has changed our world drastically. A very large part of this change comes in the way we get our daily news. In the old days a reporter had to hear about a story, investigate it, interview witnesses and other knowledgeable persons and then write an article for the masses to read. This process takes vast amounts of time. With widespread use of the internet, including news sites and the real-time connectivity of social media sites, news reporting delays are quickly approaching zero.
This means that an event can occur and go from complete obscurity to worldwide top news in as little as a few minutes. Major news networks, and even small time bloggers, make it their business to scan the web for potential stories. With so many people carrying cell phones equipped with built-in video cameras and direct internet connectivity, an event can be recorded as it is happening. Within seconds it can be uploaded to the internet for anyone to find. News networks have ways of locating such videos and stories, often through major social media sites such as Facebook or twitter and can almost immediately begin reporting on them. With direct video footage of the incident, corroborating the story through research and interviews is almost unnecessary. A good reporter really only has to know where on the web to look and major trending news stories can literally pop out at them.
Is this complete lack of a delay in news reporting a positive or negative for the world? In a way it can be both. Reporting news immediately after it occurs can definitely be beneficial. For example, when a major story such as an earthquake, tsunami or other natural disaster occurs, immediate reporting could expedite rescue efforts. On the other hand, immediately reporting a story without taking the time to fully investigate the facts of the case could lead to false reporting, which can have some devastating consequences. As we all know, even events captured on video may not tell the complete story. Often news reporters are in such a hurry to break the story that they are willing to report the visual evidence as truth, whether that is the case or not.