(Not enough) News Media

News today has changed directions. This is not to say that news is not being produced by media outlets, but rather that the information consumed is no longer what it once was.

I am describing the shift in news that is no longer stories of substance, but rather a new marketing strategy to gain views and clicks where no beneficial content can be found.

Marshall McLuhan said this of news media: “Both book and newspaper are confessional in character, creating the effect of inside story by their mere form, regardless of content. As the book page yields the inside story of the author’s mental adventures, so the press page yields the inside story of the community in action and interaction. It is for this reason that the press seems to be performing its function most when revealing the seamy side. Real news is bad news –bad news about somebody, or bad news for somebody.” (p. 226)

The draw of newspapers and books was the promise of information to come. It brings readers in, from the cover to the story. Bad news is also the news that will create the most buzz. This is an unfortunate fact about how news is received, but when was the last time that you stayed with a story for more than a day when it was generally positive (besides that baby giraffe being born.) Nowadays, news can be distributed in more ways than at the time of McLuhan, which means there is more accessibility, more content, and much, much more competition. The blame for this transition can be followed back to the beginning of 24-hour news. The movie Anchorman 2 is a perfect example of how news changed at its conception. I do believe though that news has now taken an even steeper shift in a negative direction due to the push for more constant and current content than ever before.

Headlines have become “buzz-lines” designed to bring focus to a story, even if there isn’t much content of substance. Articles online (the newspapers of this generation) run with headlines like: “You Won’t Believe What Mr. Whoever Just Shut Down” or “Senator Somebody Just Ended the Debate on Something.” And these articles come out constantly, with little amounts of content and minimal quotes or facts. They are designed simply to draw in readers with seductive words that sound like juicy drama, but have little true information.

“The speed-up of information gathering and publishing naturally created new forms of arranging material for readers. As early as 1830 the French poet Lamartine had said, ‘The book arrives too late,’ drawing attention to the fact that the book and the newspaper are quite different forms.” (p. 227)

As our ability to receive information grows faster, so does our capabilities to filter what content comes in. Social media has already used this concept to “push” certain content to the users that will most likely agree with it. It is essentially a way of ensuring that your opinion will be reinforced without even going to look for that information. Some publications will even write two different articles (with different perspectives) and portray them as their lead story, and then those who believe in that content will immediately see it.

This new level of immediacy is causing a serious downgrade in what some news outlets (not all) portray as “news.” Clickbait is now the new way to gain readership and ensure that a story will be read. Not only is this a robbery of time and attention, but consumers are becoming more complacent with these minimalist stories and don’t even look at the issues themselves. The pressure of always being forced to produce trending content has caused a major drop in the quality of our news outlets.

What steps should be taken to demand more from our news medias?

 

McLuhan, M. (1994). Understanding media: the extensions of man. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

 

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4 thoughts on “(Not enough) News Media

  1. The “attractive” news story seeks anyone who is willing. Many individuals get caught into cycles of news on repeat. Stories are being stretched out until the next attention grabbing event occurs. McLuhan explored the concept of hot and cold media. Building on your description of online media and 24 hour news media, many businesses aim for a blend hot/cold and high/low definition in which individuals do not have to participate and are satisfied with very little real information. To some degree, allow individuals to accept the publications views as their own without actually being engaged in the process.
    With all of our advances, we have not purified our news process but rather dolled it up. Papers and work should be cited and factually based. News seems filled with opinions, allegations, and slander. Given our technological resources, respectable and reliable news networks should cite their source. Simple links to creditable sources could vouch for the trustworthy sources in which the story was extracted from. Use today’s new abilities to strengthen the system by which the public is informed rather than hypnotized by it.

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  2. “Headlines have become buzz-lines (Kaufer,J.,2017).” Agreed!!!
    Back to McLuhan, he stated, ” Concern with effect rather than meaning is a basic change of our electric time, for effect involves the total situation and not a singe level of information movement (McLuhan,1964).” So is it our experiences are far more than we comprehend? Do our experiences influence our behaviors, especially within the realm of media and technology? As McLuhan stated, “no medium has its meaning or existence alone, but only in constant interplay with other media (McLuhan,1964).” Again our extensions feed into each other therefore creating unique circumstances to be evaluated and reflected upon…when we are conscious of our experiences…?

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  3. I agree that a lot of the headlines we see circulating our news feed on Facebook have little content to back them up. Recently, there has been a controversy over ‘fake news’ being extremely prevalent on Facebook. There is now the option of indicating a specific news story as a ‘disputed’ story in order to get viewers to check the sources (if any) that these stories are coming from.

    Additionally, it seems that the internet world is more concerned with how many clicks they can get on an article in comparison to the feedback they get from the content of the article. Think about it, the more ‘clicks’ you get from viewers, the more money that particular company makes. In a sense, it’s cheaper for the publishers to post proactive headlines with little fact in order to receive more money in the long run.

    The only way I can see us improving the quality of the news we are receiving is by having publishing companies who make money off accuracy instead of ‘clicks’ on the web.

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  4. Bad news is not the only news. Margaret Mead said “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” I believe this statement to be true. If we come together as a facebook community, a political community, a country founded on truth and liberty, we can change the face of many things. I remember standing at the women’s march after Trump took office and looking at the thousands of woman standing around me and thinking, I wish I had put on the back of my sign, “I hope you all voted.” It is all too often that we are reactive rather than proactive. When I look on facebook, there are a sea of false truths and it would be exhaustive for people to have to look up all the facts. We live in a world where there are many disenfranchised people who are easily influenced by promises and easy to unite over causes. Fake news provides a seed for hate to grow. I honestly believe there should penalties for this. Not too long ago a reported for the Rolling Stone printed an article that revealed a rape on a university campus by a fraternity. After the article was published, the reporter started to feel uneasy about the victim, her source, and came forward saying there were facts that were not true in the article. She was criticized again when she apologized but refused to apologize to the actual fraternity. She and the newspaper are being sued.
    Do you feel this would be different than fake news and if so why?

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