JRN 4400/FA14

I must confess to mixed feelings about the inadvertent incorporation of news as part of social media, be it Facebook, Twitter, or any other medium that may become “the next thing”.

I realize that the mindset about news and how it is ultimately disseminated has changed significantly over the past decade, but I am from the “old school” of compartmentalization…a specific time and a place for everything. This probably makes me a dinosaur, when considering the impact of social media and how convenient dissemination of anything can be, including news, in this digital age.

There was a time when televisio national news was pretty much the news medium, delivered daily via the three networks: ABC, NBC, and CBS. While these denizens of dispensing national and world news continue to deliver it to this day, the “big three” audiences are significantly down from where they were even a decade ago…and current trending indicates they will eventually be obsolete. People don’t have to be hamstrung to a rigid time schedule, and many are choosing not to be.

My concern regarding, say, Facebook as a delivery platform lies in the fact that news might end up being unduly “filtered”, depending on the person’s age, gender, demographic, etc…for example, a person predominantly connected with conservative “friends” might get a large number of links via Facebook to conservatives web sites, conservative ideologies (and of course the opposite would hold true as well: liberal outlooks, news organizations, etc.). The new generation of savvy consumers will ultimately gravitate to sites that support and champion their slant on world events. “News you can use” has morphed into “News you can choose”.

The hallmark of any journalist has traditionally been that of pursuing news as objectively as possible (at least in theory). Social media such as Facebook and Twitter, while convenient as vehicles for dispensing/connecting people with current and breaking events, end up being filters–again, largely depending on your background information, profiling, etc–for whatever slant on the news you and your network of “friends” subscribes to.

It would be difficult to predict just where the trending will take consumers. As fascinating as digital technology continues to be, I am concerned that traditional objectivity–at least to the extent that pure objectivity was ever possible–will soon be a thing of the past.

Last but not least…all of the above presupposes that a Facebook user, having logged on to his or her page, would actually pursue something newsworthy while on his or her page. I myself go to my page to catch up with friends, exchange stories. My mindset for obtaining news is one of sitting down and watching a program dedicated to delivery–again, in theory!–of “hard” news.

People tend to discuss and focus on things that they are of course passionate about. Again, while Twitter and Facebook are certainly wonderful vehicles through which to convey that kind of sharing, I’m not so sure that such exchanges would translate well toward hard, objective news. This is evidenced on Twitter, where opinions can differ significantly from broad, public opinion. I personally do not like the extreme limiting factor inherent in Twitter: that of being limited to a mere 140 characters. I like in-depth analysis, not little “sound bites” that few folks will be interested in going beyond.

For all of the convenience of so much information being readily available, I hope objectivity somehow will survive the transition form traditional delivery to the digital age.


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