NOTE: This is a 2017 blog post from another blog website of mine that has since been deleted. I decided to share it here because the subject matter is interesting and still relevant today. Slight changes have been made for clarity, but the core of the blog remains untouched.
When social media began to become a permanent fixture in the world, journalists saw that they needed to join in order to remain relevant to readers. They use many different social media platforms to share their work, get in touch with readers and see how they respond to articles. While plenty of positive results came from journalism and social media working together, a lot of negatives came as well. But without a doubt, the biggest issue is reliability.
Many readers go to social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to obtain their news these days. New media is popular among younger generations, but also for many in older generations. New media methods are easier to find and consume than their traditional media counterparts. Anyone can read, react and share an article with friends and strangers alike over social media. But there’s one problem: people generally don’t read anymore. Instead, they skim the key points of an article, read the comments from others and/or just read the headline. The American Press Institute found that in 2014, only four in 10 Americans read beyond the headline of an article. When that happens, people will end up sharing or reacting to news that could turn out to be false. The journalist responsible for the article in question certainly won’t mind, but the end result is that readers will be misinformed.
Many will ask how it’s possible for fake news to become ensnared in news media. A large answer to this falls on journalism itself. One part of this is laziness to release accurate news. In a 2014 study, 20 percent of journalists admitted to always fact-checking prior to releasing an article. This percent is far lower than it should be because it’s so important for news to be correct the first time around. Yet the same study revealed that almost half of those surveyed admitted to publishing stories first and fixing corrections later. The problem there is that most people read an article within the first hour or so of it being uploaded. If a correction is made long after that, those that read it first will most likely miss the revised article because they don’t see a need to read the same thing twice. As a result, more readers will be misinformed while only a handful will know the truth.
Another issue is that journalists feel that when it comes to social media, they can play by different rules that don’t necessarily apply to journalism. 60 percent of journalists admitted they felt less bound by journalism’s rules when using social media, and another 66 percent find that they express themselves differently on social media. This could be because a journalist feels that on such a platform, they can be more themselves and therefore express their personal opinions freely. While some will argue that such a thing should be allowed, the problem is that a journalist’s online opinions may ooze into their work. Journalists are supposed to be seen as objective; an individual whose main goal is to give people the news as it is. If their opinion’s thrown in inappropriately, their written work may take on an untrue or bias view that will affect the news they’re writing about. This will leave readers misinformed, or believing that the journalist’s views are the only views to hold about a certain topic.
Finally, the last issue comes from people sharing from sites whose whole schtick is fake news. Sites such as The Onion, The Beaverton and Clickhole are strictly satirical news sites. Their purpose isn’t to inform us of today’s news- it’s to entertain their readers with outlandish stories about politics, entertainment, sports, and more. Their stories are well-written, and often feature fake quotes and realistic-looking photos. They look so real that many readers share these articles, unaware that they’re not true. Those who share satirical news articles are typically angry by the content and wonder how such a thing could happen. But a simple click of the link will have most realizing that the article is a work of satire. Despite this happening many times, satirical news sites continue to accidentally trick unsuspecting readers into thinking they’re real. The solution here is simple— reading past the headline, and seeing where the article comes from to confirm its legitimacy.
There’s definitely an issue concerning social media’s interference with journalism’s already fragile integrity. Journalists are getting lazy when it comes to fact-checking, and may intentionally or unintentionally misinform readers with that, and/or through their bias. In addition, readers share satirical news articles on social media and present them. All of these factors contribute to the current state of fake news being a problem. From the looks of it, it doesn’t look like it’s going to be fixed anytime soon, which is a troubling thought indeed.