The Decline of News Reporting in the Age of Social Media

"Famous news anchor Walter Kronkite didn't have Twitter or Facebook back then but that didn't stop him from becoming 'America's Most Trusted Man.'"
“Famous news anchor Walter Kronkite didn’t have Twitter or Facebook back then but that didn’t stop him from becoming ‘America’s Most Trusted Man.'”

The online “blogosphere” and social media has significantly weakened news reporting and political discourse in the United States. There are many reasons for this phenomenon emerging and it does not seem to be getting any better soon as technology continues to develop and advance at a rapid pace. Today, the main problems are the fact that serious journalists and reporters care more about ‘breaking the story’ first on platforms such as Twitter and Facebook before other competing news outlets instead of getting the story correct along with all of the facts.

In addition, there are many ‘talking heads’ and bloggers’ out there reporting and analyzing the news so that it makes it even more difficult than ever to know which person to listen to and who actually has the expertise and background knowledge to be really reporting the news without any inherent bias or slanted opinions. Lastly, since the early 2000’s, many news networks and websites have emerged with the support of major corporations whom have been created with the sole purpose of advocating for the ‘liberal’ or conservative’ side of any political or social issue.

These three problems have caused the political conversation in the United States to become more and more divided. The two major political parties continue to be highly partisan and refuse to work with each other to improve the functioning of the U.S. government and its ability to help and aid its citizens. There have been many instances in the past five to ten years where news reporters on social media have made ilogicial conclusions and given their audience false facts and assumptions based on the information they were getting when a news story first breaks. For example, the terrible Boston Marathon bombings that occurred a few years ago were first fraught with a lot of inaccuracies and falsehoods when the news reports would come in just after the terrorist attack has occurred.

Most recently, during the early moments of the tragic mass shooting that happened in Roseburg, Oregon, numerous media outlets scrambled immediately to report the correct amount of dead and/or injured people on social media. Many of the news outlets reported false numbers at first because they refused to wait for local law enforcement officials to give them the official numbers. If you follow news organizations on social media, you often have to take the initial reporting of a major news event or crisis with a huge grain of salt. Initial reports from different news outlets can be false or exaggerated.

Many different news outlets rushed to Twitter, Facebook, and elsewhere on social media to be the first with the details of this terrible event but instead of verifying and fact-checking these breaking events and waiting to be sure that they were right about the news, many online websites would publish the information they received as quickly as possible in order to have the distinction of being the ‘first’ to report the news even if it wasn’t true.

More than ever, major news networks are relying on ‘talking heads’ and ‘political commentators’ to talk about heated issues in the American political sphere instead of putting reporters and journalists on the ground to gather facts and report about the big issues. Instead, many news networks, newspapers, and websites have grown their opinion (op-ed) article section and have taken money and resources away from those reporters and journalists who would like to report the news instead of just ‘interpreting’ and ‘analyzing’ it to death.

The proliferation of ‘bloggers’ and ‘social media commentators’ has distracted the average American from getting the main facts of a news story. It has caused most citizens to be unable to tell the difference between an actual journalist who does his or her research and checks the facts of the story and those bloggers who don’t actually report the news that happens. It is growing trend among mass media outlets to slant it to their own viewpoint and that of their audience without taking into account the actual story and the idea that there may be more than one side to a news issue or topic. I fear that some of the mainstays of good journalism such as thorough fact-checking, and fair and honest reporting from the mass media will continue to decline in the future due to the rise of social media.

Disclaimer: These views and/or opinions are inherently mine alone and do not reflect those of any other unaffiliated outside party, organization, and/or company.

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