Readers, Writers, Texts

The Internet and the Future of the News

“TODAY’S TECHNOLOGY has bestowed miracles of access and convenience upon millions of people, and it’s also proven to be a vital new means of communication. Twitter has been used by Iranian dissidents; text messaging and social networking Web sites have been used to help coordinate humanitarian aid in Haiti; YouTube has been used by professors to teach math and chemistry. But technology is also turning us into a global water-cooler culture, with millions of people sending each other (via e-mail, text messages, tweets, YouTube links) gossip, rumors and the sort of amusing-entertaining-weird anecdotes and photographs they might once have shared with pals over a coffee break. And in an effort to collect valuable eyeballs and clicks, media outlets are increasingly pandering to that impulse — often at the expense of hard news. “I have the theory that news is now driven not by editors who know anything,” the comedian and commentator Bill Maher recently observed. “I think it’s driven by people who are slacking off at work and surfing the Internet.” He added, “It’s like a country run by ‘America’s Funniest Home Videos.’ ”

Michiko Kakachani, Texts Without Contexts, NY Times

What changes will the internet bring to the types of news we encounter? As you read this, several large newspapers are under threat. Over the past decades news organizations have been bought by multinational corporations. What are the positive and negative effects of centralizing the news? For one thing, this could be harmful to the variety and amount of bias in coverage. On the other hand, financial resources might be more stable in an age of declining advertising revenue. Read some of the following articles and formulate your own ideas about the future of the news in the digital age: 

From the TOK Newsletter: Facebook News

Description: “… it has 1.6 billion users and is becoming an ever more important place for them to share news. More than 40% of the population of the United States say they get news on Facebook – and for many it is where they go to share and comment on stories. Stories like this – “Pope Francis Shocks World, Endorses Donald Trump for President”, “Barack Obama Admits He Was Born in Kenya”, or “Trump said in 1998 ‘If I were to run, I’d run as a Republican. They’re the dumbest group of voters in the country’.” What all of those stories had in common was that they were completely made up. That did not stop them being shared by millions of Facebook users.”

Discussion points and exploration: To some it’s scary, to others, just inevitable: Facebook is now our most popular source for news stories. Except, as this article points out, the way it’s being reported often means it isn’t the news, it is little more than embellished rumour. This prompts many questions, such as whether Facebook itself should take responsibility for the knowledge conveyed by its users – or would this be censorship…? 

Learner Portfolio

Write a one-two page journal entry in which you consider the following points:

  1. How is the news reported?
  2. How should the news be reported to ensure accuracy?
  3. Does social media help or hinder our acquisition of knowledge about the world?
  4. Who should judge whether the news is being reported responsibly?

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