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10 years ago, journalists were simply people who made a living from creating editorial material that was then published to reader, listeners or viewers. In today’s digital age it is not as easy to say what I journalist is with. Nowadays with the internet and social media, there is more opportunity than ever to be able to publish. This brings in the big question of if someone tweets about a major news story or creates their own blog does this make them a journalist? And should these tweeters, bloggers and citizen journalists be held to the same standard of the people in more traditional roles of journalism? (Marsh, 2012)
What is quality journalism? There are no written criteria when it comes to what quality journalism is. A lot of it comes down to a person’s interests, knowledge, and preferences. If we look at the Guardian and the Sun both have very different views yet both have big audiences with trust from their audiences, both being classed by their audiences as quality journalism. The digital age has been a blessing when there is breaking news, making it easy for the public to get continues information about the crisis due to online news sources being able to upload constantly. In 1995, online news sites typically posted reports that had been published elsewhere first. Within minutes of the bombing journalists and their editors of online news services were quick to post any information they could find.
Eyewitnesses took online to post their version of what happened. After a few days, the amount of information on the internet was astonishing. (Allan, 2006) In months following the Oklahoma City bombing, it became clear that online near had great potential when it came to reporting on breaking news and for those in the newspaper industry it became clear that they would not be able to compete with their online rivals when breaking news was concerned. (Allan, 2006) Chris Oaks (1995) wrote during the bombings “perhaps more than any web use, this internet response to a national tragedy presages what the future of online will be.” At a time of crisis people need information rapidly as the events are unfolding, online news can upload content constantly through a crisis as newspapers cannot. Online isn’t always a good thing when it comes to breaking news. The internet has made it very easy for anyone to post the theories of an even to the public without any facts or proof to back up their points, these theories can then easily be spread like wildfire and make their way to mainstream journalism.
The crash of the TWA flight 800 is a good example of this. In July 1996, the airliner plunged into the Atlantic Ocean. Beginning with the breaking news reports there was a lot of speculation around what/who caused the explosion. Many eyewitnesses said they saw some type of object or steak of light closing in on the airliner at high speeds. ‘Terrorist experts’ as were quick to come out and say Arabs and Muslims were responsible for the explosions. The breaking news reports and mainstream journalist started relying on these sources for their content. Conspiracy theories started to make their way to the internet the most popular theory was that the TWA 800 was accidentally shot down by US navy cruiser engaged in exercises. This theory apparently first came from the alt.conspiracy.com newsgroup, where it circulated to more popular newsgroups, it then made its way to the local television news and ended up on the mainstream newsgroups around the world. The crash of the TWA 800 flight is a great example to show us how we can’t trust everything we read online and how fast things can spread when something that started on a conspiracy theory newsgroup that isn’t backed up with any facts can make its way to mainstream news channels around the world.
Maggie canon, ComputerLife’s editor-in-chief said “The internet is often viewed by its users as an unfiltered, primary source of information and not to be distrusted like traditional news media. There is almost an immediate acceptance of information on the internet.” (cited in PR Newswire, 18 March 1997) The internet has become the primary source to find news and information, with people using just a handful of social media sites and search engines to do this. The problem with this is using algorithms they learn from our personal data these sites can post things they think we will click on. Sites make more money when we click on the links they are showing us. This leads to misinformation and fake news designed to appeal to our bias and this information spreading like wildfire. Using data science those with bad intentions can spread misinformation for financial or political gain. (Berners-Lee, 2017) The digital age and data since have affected political campaigns not the best way.
Political campaigns can now use algorithms from our personal data to build adverts targeted to a certain user on social media. One source suggests that during the 2016 US election, political campaigns were posting between 40-50,000 advert variations every day, that were continuously measuring responses and then adapting and evolving based on their responses. There are also suggestions that show that some political adverts, in us and around the world are being used in unethical ways, pointing voters towards fake news sites or keep others away from the polls. (Cadwalladr, 2016) Targeted campaign advertising allows a campaign to say different, possibly conflicting things to different groups. (Berners-Lee, 2017)
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