The news has become increasingly important to the American populace. During the 2016 election, the term “fake news” was coined, describing articles used as propaganda for politics that contained significant amounts of false information. These articles brought awareness to the public of mistakes that journalists can make and the occasional unreliability of internet news.
Some Americans do not feel that modern-day journalism is reliable because of fake news and the biases that several TV and online news organizations have in their work. Some organizations, such as CNN, have a history of making mistakes in their news stories that were presented online first.
These mistakes, however, were not made in a vacuum. Accuracy in journalism in the age of the internet has become increasingly difficult. The direct changes in how the industry operates were caused by the internet and can lead to mistakes being made.
According to ‘Le Monde’ reporter Yves Eudes’ interview with ‘The Guardian’, social media has made the greatest impact on modern journalism. The use of SnapChat, Twitter and YouTube allows for first-person accounts that are quick to follow the event being covered and are easy to discover.
However, Eudes also warns against journalists that rely too heavily on internet coverage of events.
“First person witnesses cannot see the big pictures.” Says Eudes.
Social media also allows for rapid distribution of the news that are made. According to David Squire’s article, “Social Media’s Effect on Journalism,” Squire explains that anyone can share it quickly and for free, causing the news to have a wider spread than in purely paper journalism or even TV news. This can lead to problems of its own, though.
Due to the news being spread by third-parties, they can spread it with tags or captions that do not properly portray the material. This can create a game of telephone, where the intention and material of the original article is twisted into something that it is not.
There is also the danger of misinformation being in the article or the title itself. Because of the 24-hour news cycle, news companies race to get the news out as soon as possible after an event occurs, as Eudes claims. This race causes parts of the news to be overlooked. Mistakes are more likely to be made, in a haste to publish material.
This becomes particularly disastrous when combined with social media. With the rapid rate that third parties can transmit information, as discussed above, mistakes have farther-reaching consequences. The internet is infamous for never forgetting, so the error can never truly disappear.
There is also the problem that when a retraction is made, it is not spread with quite the same fervor as the original article.
Another major problem that the internet has caused with journalism has to do with titles of articles. Because most websites run on advertising revenue based on how many clicks are gained, there is a priority to getting clicks on the page.
This is achieved through eye-catching graphics and titles. However those titles can also be misleading or exaggerated what is being described in the article. This is what is known as “clickbait.”
This can become damaging for the industry when only the title and link is shared on social media. Viewers are mislead by the title and may make it into a controversy because they do not read the article, which may have information that averts the misleading aspects of the title.
The journalism industry in many ways is still in a state of transition regarding the internet. These problems will require dedicated solutions on behalf of the journalists and the consumers. Fact-checking websites such as Snopes are useful to consumers in discovering the truth and keeping journalists accountable.
However, journalism is also aided by the internet. Eudes says there is more awareness of smaller news stories. British commentator and radio personality Paul Mason, stated in an interview with ‘The Guardian’, that there is more in-depth sources that allow for more freedom in the direction of stories can be taken.
Journalists are increasingly important in the modern political climate, making it vital that the industry make the changes it needs so that the news can remain reliable and accurate. What does the future hold in the Digital Age for journalism?