The internet is a remarkable thing and with the dawn of new media, our consumption of news and current affairs grows slowly narrower. The invention of clickbait headlines and ‘news’ that isn’t really news have become so omnipresent it’s hard to discern what’s really worth knowing these days. Most people will admit that they get their news from their Facebook feed and rightly so – used properly, social media sites can be excellent platforms for discovering objective information in real time.
Twitter is updated constantly and you only need to follow a hashtag to get info as soon as it happens – which makes Dáil proceedings exciting on occasion. But a lot of the posts clogging up our feeds are sensational pieces designed to make you click so that they get more money. Let’s be clear, this is not journalism. This is not the role of the media in our society.
According to journalist David Randall the role of the journalist is to find “fresh information on matters of public interest and to relay it as quickly and as accurately as possible to readers in an honest and balanced way”. The internet has altered the very existence of journalism. The press is no longer a puppet for those in power. We don’t have to hide behind legislation on unreasonable censorship or flatter royalty or love the Kardashians. As figures working in the media we have to be honest and decide whether what we’re reporting is in the public’s interest.
But what’s in the public’s interest? It is extremely disconcerting that a story on an international event is usually buried beneath ten posts all based on a celebrity’s latest Instagram photo. Why is that considered news? Are people really that distracted and busy they need to be anaesthetised by this sort of thing. There is a time and place for everything.
Always expecting the headline to grab your attention will lead you down a dark road of fake news and conspiracy theories. People should consider looking for the news themselves. It’s not in the public’s interest that Gary Barlow washed his hair for the first in fourteen years just last week. It should, however, interest Ireland that the EU are onto us for having contaminates in our water supply.
There is new content uploaded hourly, daily, weekly – the demand is considerably high and journalists have an expanding internet to draw from. Stories and events are far easier to capture with new media in comparison to the older ways like the paper and radio. The invention of smartphones has surpassed all previous news-assembling methods.
When the BBC reported from Zimbabwe during the 2008 elections, even though they were banned from doing so, it dawned on them how accessible the news is now. They were not weighed down by cumbersome equipment, nor were they suspected of being reporters. They broadcasted live feed using a mobile phone and a satellite phone from someone’s back garden. It notably cut their budget costs and world affairs seemed closer to home than ever before. Video quality, poor or otherwise, has no great effect on the value of such a broadcast because it is the content that matters.
Journalists do have it a lot harder these days if they want an audience to engage with their pieces. They have to use pictures of socialites and namedrop a Jenner or Kardashian just to get a look-in from a decent crowd. For instance, I could title this piece ‘It’s not about Kylie Jenner’ and it would most likely grab more attention from the passing eye. In this age, everything has to be snappy and given at quick-fire pace. Forget the Long Read specials in The Guardian, news is being reduced to a collection of memes these days.
It is the duty of journalists to be factual and their headlines should reflect the topic they’re writing about. The same goes for calling out phony news and misleading headlines. No matter what the issue is, it is always in the public’s interest to be informed of lies they’ve been fed and to be given the truth where possible. That is journalism.
-By Heather Robinson