The Illusion of Choice

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A recurring theme of the responses to previous posts is the assertion that the internet and social media provides us with a variety of news sources from which to choose and that this allows us to form a better, more objective view of what is happening in the world today. 

But what if this freedom to choose is merely an illusion? As i have written in the previous post, 90% of the media that we access on a day-to-day basis belongs to a handful of organisations. 

Lets take Australian news media sources as an example. 

Australian media, and in particular the print media, stands out internationally among advanced democracies for its extreme concentration.

Three owners – News Limited, Fairfax Media and APN News and Media – hold approximately 98% of the sector, and two of these owners, News and Fairfax, together hold about 88% of the print media assets in the country. Some of you will argue that this is just print media, and that going online provides us with a much larger diversity of sources. Consider these facts:

  1. Clear evidence indicates that print media (including online versions of the most popular news brands) remains the dominant source of news for the rest of the news media sector – both traditional (radio, television, magazines, subscription) and new media (online only news sites, and very popular aggregators like Google and Yahoo or portals like Ninemsn).  
  2. All but one of the 12 news sites in Australia’s top 100 most visited sites are owned by major existing media outlets 

These statistics raises some interesting questions about the assertion that the diversity of news sources is so much greater online. Or is it simply that Australians are not exercising their freedoms to explore a wider variety of news sources?  And if that is the case, what does this say about our own news consumption habits?

So, where do YOU get your news from? Please leave your insights, views and opinions in the comments section below, your participation is much appreciated!

*All statistics and assertions made in this post are referenced from the Centre of Policy Development Australia, for more info please click on the link

 

 

The Problem with Media Ownership

Consider for a minute that the majority of news media agencies today are owned by a small handful of individuals or corporations. 

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The above infographic quite clearly illustrates the virtual monopoly that these small handful of corporations has over our mass media channels. The question is, what effects does this concentration of media ownership have on the ways in which media news agencies generate and report news stories? 

The most apparent issues are those related to ideas of the political economy. Firstly, it is argued that with such a small handful of companies and corporations in control of the public airwaves, that the interests of the minority elite are inevitably promoted over the interests of the people at large. With that in mind, the increasing commercialisation of the news industry and the media in general mean that media news agencies today are primarily loyal to sponsors (Advertisers/government) and these interests take precedence over responsible news reporting and public interest.

How can these interests manifest?  

  1. Media owners/sponsors can choose to suppress or ignore news stories that do not serve their interest.
  2. Journalists and their reports may be directly sponsored by parties who are the subject of their journalism leading to reports which actually favor the sponsor, have that appearance, or are simply a repetition of the sponsors opinion.
  3. News stories are reported in such a manner as to favour media owners/sponsors interests. 

What do you think about the implications of media ownership and its effects of news reporting? Your comments below 

 

 

 

The Twitter Effect

As the 2 previous postings have highlighted, Twitter is beginning to encroach upon territory once reserved for News Media Agencies. More and more, Twitter is becoming a source of breaking news and discussion. This begs the question, what sort of effects is this having on News reporting and news consumption?

  1. Citizen Reporting/journalism – To call if journalism might be a stretch, but what is happening a lot on Twitter these days, and what gives it a major advantage over traditional News Media Agencies like CNN, particularly in the case of breaking news stories and ongoing events, is that eyewitnesses on the scene of major situations are able to “live” tweet events as they transpire, providing pictures and updates of unfolding scenarios at speeds that CNN or the BBC would struggle to keep up with. In essence, anyone and everyone with a smartphone and a twitter account can be a “reporter” and a source of news stories today. So when everyone can be an eyewitness, when everyone can report, what then does a journalist do, what is their role in the news reporting industry? Indeed, the increasing prevalence of social media platforms like Twitter as means of news reporting and dissemination is one of the biggest threats, in my opinion, to journalism.
  2. News at breakneck speeds – There is no question that the quickening pace of communication over the last years, including the rise of Twitter, has heightened our expectation of the timeliness of news. Today, Twitter is beginning to compete with Newswire in terms of lead time on breaking news stories. The inevitable result, bemoaned by many traditional journalists, is that being correct is subjugated to being first. Attitudes are increasingly that it’s better to be first out and have to correct than to delay too long. This leads me to my next point:
  3. Speed over accuracy – Spurred by competition amongst news media outlets and platforms like Twitter, the modus operandi in the news reporting world now seems to be “report first, ask questions later”. Twitter users are most definitely guilty of getting facts wrong and misreporting events. But then again, its Twitter and these users, for the most part, are doing exactly what you would expect unqualified eyewitnesses to do, get things wrong. But in this mad scramble to be the first to report a news story, major news media networks are also making the same amateur mistakes that you get on Twitter. One need only look at CNN and its recent gaffes to realise how badly news media agencies are trying to get ahead. Here is a link to a well written article on CNN and its more recent embarrassing mistakes caused by being first, rather than being right: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/22/business/media/in-boston-cnn-stumbles-in-rush-to-break-news.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

What do you think about the effect that Twitter, and social media in general is having on the News industry? Are these effects largely positive or negative? Your thoughts in the comments section…..

Breaking News on Twitter

The infographic in the previous post highlights just how important social media is becoming in reporting and disseminating news information. Twitter in particular has come a long way from its beginnings as a niche platform for celebrity musings to become what is today considered a legitimate platform for breaking news stories. 

Andrew Miller, CEO of Guardian News & Media says that twitter is driving more referral traffic for key breaking news stories to The Guardian than other social media platforms.

“Twitter has really helped The Guardian,” he says “Twitter is the fastest way to break news now. So core to what we do and core to what we do on a daily basis.” 

Miller highlights how, for the biggest breaking news story of the year so far, that of NSA whistle blower Edward Snowden, the story “really broke from us and on twitter. It took an hour before the breaking news stations got this,” he says.

According to internal figures, the Snowden story is reported to have set a one-day traffic record for Guardian.co.uk as it attracted almost 7 million unique browsers.

Below is an interview with Andrew Miller for more of his thoughts on Twitter and its role in news reporting:

Social media and news reporting

More than ever, people are using Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms to get their news and learn about whats happening in the world as traditional news outlets become increasingly less relevant to the digital generation.

In the following blog posts, I will discuss the impact social media is having on traditional media news sources as well as the entire news industry, but first, some interesting statistics and facts about social media and the news:

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Representation in the news

“If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.”

-Malcolm X

In this case, Malcolm X was of course speaking in the context of the civil rights movement and the media biases that were present in the media at the time. What of todays media? What sort of representational biases are present in contemporary news stories today?

Lets take a quick look at a recent news story:

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http://edition.cnn.com/2013/08/25/us/louisiana-boy-kills-grandmother

The above is a recent headline (i have also provided the link which i strongly recommend you follow to get the full written brief which provides some valuable context in understanding the way the issue has been framed).

The wording of the headline as well as the actual news content point the finger accusingly at video games as the root cause of the incident. However, read the news story further and other questions arise:

Why was an 8 year old allowed to play Grand Theft Auto unsupervised?

How and why was the 8 year old able to access a firearm so easily?

The caregiver in question was the childs 87 year old grandmother. Would she have been able to competently keep an eye on the child?

Where are the 8 year old parents?

Most certainly video games were a factor, but the manner in which the news story has been framed and written seems to pin video game violence as the sole culprit.  Reading through the news story, isnt bad parenting the bigger issue here?

More importantly, this raises interesting issues about media and media news reporting, particularly with such a large and influential body as CNN. Are contemporary news media outlets such as CNN presenting news stories in fair and objective manner?

The article goes on to draw parallels between this story and the Deadly Sandy Hook shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, in which the shooter was also said to be influenced by violent video games. It seems apparent that what is happening here is what Bill Kovach and Tim Rosenstiel have called a “journalism of assertion”, which de-emphasizes the validity of a claim and instead encourages putting a claim into the arena of public discussion as quickly as possible.

This sensationalism and selective framing of a news story is clearly in contradiction to basic journalistic standards. In this case, it is easy to read between the lines and discover the “real” issue. However, what of news stories with which we have no point of reference, where we are reliant solely on the journalist and news media outlets to provide us with accurate, reliable and objective information such as the ongoing conflicts in Syria or the drone strikes in the Middle East? In other words, can we really trust our news sources?

Your thoughts below… and in the meantime, you stay classy Rethinking Media class of 2013

Introduction: News reporting and consumption in the 21st century

The advent of digital technologies, the internet and social media have drastically changed the way that news is reported and consumed today. Indeed, the death of print media has long been discussed amongst observers with the recent cessation of Newsweek Magazine’s Print issues serving as milestone in this long hyped issue. More importantly, the 24 hour news cycle, twitter-sphere and citizen journalism have radically altered the landscape of the news reporting industry. The overwhelming amount of news resources available in modern society and the consequent competition amongst news providers for audience and advertiser attention has led to what what many believe is a decline in journalistic standards. Max Knight, editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer has gone on record as saying that “In the newsroom, we no longer talk about the news, what we are consumed by is business pressure, and the bottom line”.

What are the interests and objectives of media news sources in the 21st century?

What are the thought processes behind the media’s selective highlighting of certain news stories and issues whilst other, perhaps more “important” (debatable) issues get short thrift?

Is the media being fair, responsible and objective in reporting/representing issues?

The increasing partisan-ship of media, is this a good or a bad thing?

This blog will seek to address these issues and more, stay tuned for more breaking news. You stay classy Rethinking Media class of 2013.

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