In the past, journalists were the storytellers. Today, their goal is guiding people to the truth, to help the reader make sense of things happening in the world.
First something crazy happens within the entertainment industry that catches the attention of viewers. Lance Armstrong gets caught using drugs, or Miley Cyrus is viewed twerking. Recently, the first Indian- American woman won the Miss America pageant. People then react using the internet as their main outlet. With so many people creating and posting content, it is hard to take in what everyone is staying in any kind of controlled way. Somewhere between viewers posting their own opinions and the reposting of what others have said, the real story can get lost.
After the initial reaction of the audience, journalists sift through the content on the Internet to tell us what people are saying and doing. This is where good journalism can easily slip away. People usually have a wide range of positive and negative feelings that they share on the internet. The truth of the real story can be altered based on what people are saying. When an event is positive or even record breaking, journalists can make the event seem negative by focusing on the degrading comments made by certain people. If journalists take this route, they tend to frame the story to one particular reaction. For example, Miss New York Nina Davuluri, was crowned Miss America in the recent pageant. She is the first contestant of East Indian heritage to be crowned Miss America. Along with the celebratory tweets many offensive tweets were made about her heritage. As soon as one blog expressed these negative tweets, the morning TV shows and cable-news were talking about the crazy, racist reaction that some people are having in the Twitterverse. This leaves the joyful reactions and celebratory tweets overlooked.
Miss America crowned its first winner of East Indian descent, Nina Davuluri, Sunday in Atlantic City. Soon after the announcement, racist tweets flooded the internet. ©2013 USA Today.
If journalists aren’t careful, they might skip over the accomplishment and write the majority of a story based on rude comments people say on twitter. The infographic on the right shows consumer behavior and internet usage worldwide. What category would you say tends to take up most of your time while on the internet? Do you read up on news, social network, or follow blogs?
According to a 2013 story CNN wrote on a study of mobile web use,
“Two-thirds of cell-phone owning Americans use their phones to surf the Web and check e-mail. For a growing segment of people, phones aren’t just a secondary way to check the news or send off a quick e-mail, 21% of phone owners use their devices as their primary way of accessing the Internet, more than PCs and tablets.”
It is a negative side to human nature that when we view a shocking story on the
Web, we like to share these links with others. This gives journalists even more of a desire to write about viewers’ negative reactions. Journalists need to watch out for this trap and remember that it is their job to convey the truth. As online consumers, we can try to prevent this by not repeating what we hear on social media just because it has the potential of a story about to go viral. Instead, elevate the pursuit of the truth.
– Betsy Albers