With it being so easy to find a news article online in a split second, you’d think that this was a great benefit of the technological advances of the 21st Century, revolutionising News reporting. I certainly believed this to be the case, when news such as Osama bin Laden’s death, and the Egypt uprisings spread across the world within an hour via the means of Twitter and social media. Social networks like Facebook collaborated with leading newspapers to create apps whereby one can read articles through Facebook and see what their friends are reading too. Though this was an invasion of the privacy of whatever one chooses to read, I thought this was great, and upon seeing friends reading articles who I know never pick up newspapers and rarely have any interest in current affairs, I thought this would reap benefits. Nowadays, particularly in the midst of these Olympics, my Facebook homepage is always filled with recently read articles, and so I decided to spend a good 20 minutes just observing what my friends and fellow teenagers were reading on the internet to see if I could pick out any trends or just make any conclusions.
It took only 7 minutes for me to find one key trend and for it to transform my viewpoint of online news. All but one article that my friends have read recently (well according to Facebook) had been written pre-2010 and were from 4 online newspaper websites: The Guardian, The Washington Post, Yahoo and younews (India). Aside from the Guardian, the news articles were so outdated and not well written at all. Some outrightedly had misinformed data and were based on purely speculation that not even low brow gossip tabloids would include. I asked one of my friends who I had seen read an article about Harry Potter on the younews link their thoughts on it, and they had no idea that it was two years old and had been written by a member of the public rather than a journalist. With another friend, I asked them about the Yahoo article they had read about two frenemy celebrities, and she quickly changed the subject to how she’d read yesterday that Francis Boulle was going out with Louise Thompson from Made In Chelsea. I gave this a quick Google and in fact they date in early 2011, not recently. These two friends are studying at Cambridge.
Now this is just very selective to my Facebook friends, who all may well just be unobservant of dates and not caring about the quality and accuracy of the news that they are reading but I am almost certain that this applies to many teenagers across the UK who may not have been brought up by newspaper reading parents/who have no care for “proper” news per se, but just easily accessible gossip news that is right on their Facebook homepage made all the more cooler by their friends reading it and making it trend.
This led me to do some research and find out how online newspapers are doing generally (especially with the adult/post-educated), and who the main forerunners. I was shocked to find out that the New York Times has lost its ranking as the worlds biggest newspaper website to Britain’s Daily Mail. And only a quarter of Mail’s online readers are British. This is supposedly because of its political slant and biases which cause it to do well in an international global market, which apparently is the market necessary to exploit in order to survive as an online newspaper business. (Source: The Economist, 17th March 2012).
The fact that there is such a lack of impartial (well as best as it can be), good, clean news circulating around ordinary folk scares me. I really hope that my generation, with all this unreliable news at their fingertips, learns to evaluate it and take it all with a pinch of salt. Unfortunately, I very much doubt that the Newspaper in paper form is going to have a strong presence in our lives and current affairs after 50 years, and the internet is always going to be filled with inaccuracies and trolls so it is up to us to read between the lines and make sure that we are not easily persuaded.