My View: The democratization of news has both pros and cons
We take our jobs seriously. I know that sounds a bit funny with this column appearing in our April Fools’ Day edition.
As a newspaper, and as a team of journalists, we strive to make sure that we cover the news and highlight the facts for our readers. We do our best to balance opinions and to include more than one side to a story.
This can take many forms, from including multiple sources, providing space in our opinion pages for multiple views and ideas, and making sure we moderate and ensure truthfulness on our Facebook page and other social media channels. We do everything we can to make sure we are giving you as complete a look at the issue as we can.
In the current media landscape, with social media, blogs and other sources of information all competing for our attention and trust, we have seen a shift in what is viewed as “news.”
Anyone with an Internet connection is now a publisher. Everyone is now a vocal participant in the world’s news.
In the old days, legacy media, our fancy way of saying newspaper, radio and television, were the only real option for information. In the days before the Internet, there really weren’t any other ways to get information. This created a very structured information system that limited and consolidated the power of news and information into the hands of a few.
With the advent of the digital age, we have seen a democratization of news and information. We are living in a truly post-modern society, where everyone’s voice, everyone’s idea and everyone’s coverage has an impact.
Overall, this has been a good thing. It has opened the door for more coverage, faster updates and real time coverage of events. It has also allowed and created situations where every post, every idea, every story competes at the same level.
We all have the ability to shape the opinions of those around us. We have more competition for your attention than ever before.
We can see this in full swing with the presidential election. The amount of very vocal posts revolving around both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders has been almost overwhelming.
I have a feeling that this election cycle will be a model for how successful campaigns run in the future. The internet has taken grassroots to a new level, one that spreads like a wildfire and spreads information, sometimes misinformation, faster than anyone can control.
In newspapers, and in journalism in general, we strive to include multiple sides to a story. Our goal is to talk with the primary sources, those who participated in or have first hand knowledge of an issue, and then talk with people from as many sides of the issue as we can.
By doing this we can, hopefully, provide as unbiased of a story as possible. Reporters work hard to gather information that is based on fact and use that to craft a narrative that provides the reader with a good story.
Of course we have limitations. One of the challenging pressures on our industry is the cost of producing high quality content that is well thought out and researched. It takes time. It takes money.
When you look at the overall media industry, many companies have fallen into the click bait trap. Basically creating stories, leads and headlines just to gain clicks. Broadcast television has done this for years with leads to stories that are sensational. The same thing has been happening online.
As more people and more media sources compete for the same audience, there is a literal arms race for who can reach more people and who can drive more clicks to their sites —i.e., headlines that follow the pattern of, “What this person did, you won’t believe.”
No information, just a lazy way to get people to click. Often you will find that headline sitting above a provocative photo that in many cases has nothing to do with the content of the article. To me, this is the dark side of the democratization of the Internet. We are faced with a land grab that leaves a lot to luck and trickery over fact and reason.
I am a firm believer, and I hope I am not proven wrong, that people want good content. If we can provide good content and good information in a format that is accessible to the reader, then readers will consume it.
Remember the old adage, don’t trust what you see on TV? Well the same is true for online. Don’t automatically trust what you see on Facebook or other social platforms, and please do your research and use a bit of reason before you hit the share button.
Ben Rogers is the co-general manager and advertising director of the Sierra Sun and North Lake Tahoe Bonanza. He can be reached directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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