I’ll start by saying I love social media and how it has revolutionised modern communication.
I love its reach and I love observing how fiction can become fact through popularity. I think that last part is insane but really very interesting.
There are many things I don’t like about it, one of them is how easy it facilitates lazy journalism, the type of journalism I loathe, where one spends all day looking for a story that goes viral to write about.
At a basic level, writing about what’s popular isn’t wrong, particularly if you are careful to expand the story from what has already been published.
The title “Social media reacts to…” without any additional context or propelling the story forward so those same social media commenters can learn something, in my opinion, is content creation and not journalism. It’s Buzzfeed as opposed to NY Times. In journalism, it’s lazy.
It’s particularly distressing for me, because of the understanding that stories like that generate from inside a newsroom, without the writer ever going outside to observe.
MPs have been criticised for decades for winning elections and then never engaging with constituents.
Journalists are now engaging less and less with the actual people who they want to read their work, separating themselves from citizens on a physical level to engage in the digital world.
Again, there is nothing, in my opinion, wrong with canvassing reactions or comments online, but where is the balance we strive so hard to maintain?
Where is the truth? How do you prove that someone sitting behind a screen, able to type whatever they fancy is a credible source?
Richard Sambrook who used to be at the BBC once described social media sites as “the new towns, or cities, or neighbourhood bars where the public gather and discuss things.”
That’s true enough, but how does that allow journalists the luxury of opting out of fact-checking.
The opting out of fact-checking is just as bad as creating fake news.
A few months ago, a media house tweeted about a gruesome murder in St James, and that police had blocked streets on the Western main road and areas surrounding the murder, which had involved a police officer and a woman.
Minutes later the tweet was deleted, with nary an apology to be found.
Why was this tweet deleted?
Because it turned out the photo which was being shared, which had initiated the post wasn’t just an old photo but was from an entirely different country.
Police had not blocked any streets and they were not combing through the neighbourhood for suspects.
This isn’t the only example to be found in recent times but it was one of the most protrusive.
You really can’t believe everything you see on the internet, and with diminishing trust in news media, it’s even more important for mistakes like these to be avoided.