Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Extra, Extra! Read, Tweet, and Blog about it!

Abbey Knupp

Information used to flow one-way, straight from the printing press into the hands of the voracious consumers with little to no room for readers to interact with or influence the information placed into their hands. As technology changed and new modes of communication were invented, the transmission of information through the different mediums has become more of a give and take system; news outlets provide coverage, and their viewers are given the option to respond to, spread, and, in some instances, influence the news.

Local news networks have utilized technological advancements to engage the communities they serve through Facebook and Twitter. Many news networks, like WBNS-10TV News in Columbus, offer online polling for viewers to get the community’s opinion on trending issues. They also encourage viewers to send in pictures, which their air during the broadcast, of areas in the community. This is most popular during times of extreme weather, when people submit pictures to showcase ridiculously sized icicles or hail bouncing off of their trampoline in the midst of a storm.

With citizen-provided content, however, come the questions of accuracy and transparency. Those values, which are essential components of the basic journalistic code of ethics, are a little harder to check when content comes from sources outside of the newsroom. What are the motives of the suppliers? Are the pictures real or a product of Photoshop?

According to Kelly McBride and Tom Rosenstiel in The Future of Journalism Ethics, the more a news organization tries to hide the sources of their content, the more a consumer should be skeptical of the information being received. In the media market, consumers are typically able to discern whether or not the content they are receiving is legitimate.

For example, a reader is more likely to pick up a copy of The New York Times and read an article about President Obama's latest decisions and take it for truth than believe the information presented in a publication like The National Enquirer, alluding to an affair between President Obama and Caroline Kennedy.

That doesn’t mean that there haven’t been lapses of truth in major media players like The New York Times, which experienced a scandal in 2003 with Jayson Blair, a journalist found guilty of plagiarism and making false claims. However, many major outlets have gained a rapport of providing readers with accurate information and are more trusted by the public than other media sources.

The big media moguls have also sought to engage in the community with viewers through Twitter. One of the most notable efforts to engage viewers, prompted by CNN, was their initiative #askacop, which prompted Twitter users to supply the network with questions to ask their panel of police officers, which was going to air at one of the later news hours.

While the prompt gained a large response from the online community, it was hardly what the network had in mind. Twitter users fired out brutal, pointed questions or statements about current events, bringing up topics such as police brutality and racial discrimination. The other side of the argument tweeted right back, sparking a fierce debate.

Despite the fact that the community is far from perfect and media networks are still trying to adjust to all of the facets of the new technology, viewers and readers alike are intrigued by the channels of communication opening between them and the news outlets. They continue to read and watch the news, but now they also tweet and blog about it. Who knows what's next?

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