Would Social Media Overpowering Traditional Media Be a Bad Thing?
In the age of “fake news,” traditional media has taken a lot of backlash for its inability to educate the public accurately (especially in the United States). With this large distrust in the media, people have started to shift to other sources in order to gather information about what is happening in their country as well as the rest of the world. Social media in particular is what people tend to lean towards over the traditional news networks. However, are social media platforms actually a better alternative to other forms of media?
Print Media Becoming a Dying Industry
It’s no surprise to anyone that print media is dying out. Due to a string of technological advances most people believe that the need for a newspaper (or print media in general) is unnecessary. Everything is easily accessible online, and is written quickly after the story is released. Newspapers take time and are often late, in comparison to social media, in reporting an event. Additionally, paper costs a lot of money. More money that newspaper are able to afford with sales dwindling due to online access. News outlets are now even beginning to report information on their own personal websites, in addition to their paper; which makes sense, because they have to compete with other platforms. However, by spending less time on promoting their paper copies, they are actually contributing to their own problem, and the need for these media outlets will begin to disappear.
Ratings over Content
Public broadcasting was designed to accurately inform the people of what’s happening in their country and around the world. Some cable news broadcasting is even meant to be free, or incorporated into taxes simply because there is nothing more important to a democracy or a republic than informed citizens. In order to make decisions and to vote, in good conscience, for elected officials and to support laws that are being passed, people need to be educated. However, this responsibility that news outlets were given has been neglected in the name of producing higher ratings for their networks and advertisements. News outlets are serving the public information with biased undertones or explicit exaggerations to keep viewership up. They only want to inform based on what the public wants to hear (or in some cases what they do not what to hear) in order to surpass their competitors and influence. In the United States especially, there is a huge misconception of politics based on media outlets that have failed to properly inform. These top outlets like Fox News, CNN and MSNBC, in a way, brainwash the American people while creating a larger divide between the right and the left; While other news networks that have integrity and aim to simply educate, fall short and even die out like Aljazera America. For these reasons in particular, United States citizens and presumably citizens of other countries lean towards social media for their information. They trust a first hand account on a twitter thread more than a news network whose aim is to feed you the information that they most think will benefit them.
Issues within Social Media
The general public turns toward social media in hopes to avoid lies from the broadcast news stations. During the Ferguson Unrest, in Missouri (In regards to the Michael Brown case) social media was able to capture the event, and enable the truth, while the mainstream media was trying to paint the incident in entirely different ways. For its first hand encounters, social media is invaluable. However, the issue with social media is that anyone can post information on it, without fact checking. Mark Twain once said “A lie can travel half way around the world, while the truth is still putting on its shoes,” this is entirely true in the case of social media. If one popular person uploads wrong information online, it can spread quicker than if it were to air on television or written in a newspaper. Technology hurts us in this case, because people are able to make up lies to better their cause or hurt another’s. For instance, in the case of immigrants dying in the Mediterranean, pictures arose to bring awareness and show the injustice. When those certain pictures came out of immigrant women and children dying, people began to spread rumors that they were fake. This was of course to help their own agenda but it tremendously hurt the movements who support immigration, and the way the public views them.
Where Do We Go from Here?
It’s hard to say whether social media is better than traditional at this point in time. All media has the capacity to harm or help the public. In order for society to be well informed of what’s happening in their homeland as well as the rest of the world, they need to subject themselves to unbiased media. The media that is thriving however, has to be more mindful as well. News networks were not meant to be bought in favor of a political party, nor were they meant to be used as a marketing strategy for other corporations. Their only purpose was to provide people with the facts. That’s it. As far as social media, it might be where the world is headed in regards to information but that might not necessarily be the best thing for the general public. Although its ability to provide fast information and first hand encounters, almost instantly, is something remarkable; it can also drastically hurt an organization, movement or a person, and do almost more damage than a broadcasting network. Moreover, media has to shape up in a general sense, but it’s not certain whether it will within the next couple of years. In the meantime, the public should be careful of what information they are sharing, and be aware of their sources.
If you want to know the most and least biased news networks, check this page out.
Madeline Tersigni is a native New Yorker studying in Italy at the American University of Rome. She is a Communications major, with a concentration in Journalism and a minor in International Business. Madeline is interning at AlfaBeta for the summer, and when she is not working you can find her reading or traveling around Italy.