Sifting through news

I recently read an article from talking about how younger generations are woefully uneducated about the news because we don’t read print newspapers anymore. I don’t agree with everything the author says. The author is pro-print publication and anti-online, citing that when reading a newspaper online you only click on a headline if it interests you, instead of skimming the first few graphs.

I don’t entirely agree that a print publication is necessarily better than all of the digital formats available, but I do agree with the author’s overall point:

“It’s fashionable now to say we want our news unfiltered. But too often that means we don’t find what we need to know because it’s too difficult, like trying to drink from a fire hose.”

And this makes sense. College students use Twitter and Facebook to find out what is happening in the world. I’m one of them. I enjoy sharing articles and reading articles that my friends post. One tool I have recently started using is the Washington Post’s Social Reader. It allows you to see what other articles your friends are reading through news feed updates. I think problems arise when we rely on social media to find out the news.

Facebook released a list of Most Shared Articles in 2011 and there are some legitimate news stories on the list, like No. 1 Satellite Photos of Japan, Before and after the Quake and Tsunami and No. 23 Obama’s and Bush’s effects on the deficit in one graph. But there are also a lot of things that are amusing, but maybe not the most most newsworthy or educational, like Twin Baby Boys have a Conversation and No, your zodiac sign hasn’t changed.

The vast majority of the articles that made Facebook’s list are human interest stories, opinion articles or weird news tidbits. There are very few stories that will help people vote better, understand how their tax dollars are being spent or understand the effects of major world events. Reading a newspaper or listening/watching a newscast allows one to get the news that someone with good news judgment has deemed important.

I have fairly news-conscious Facebook friends and follow people who tweet newsworthy things (partially thanks to the Twitter list that Amy Simons created for her J2150 class). But I don’t trust the people I follow or my Facebook/Twitter use habits enough to rely on that as the prime means of getting news.

A newscast and a newspaper front/home page is designed to give prominence to more important stories. I can see what is the most timely and important even just by skimming the headlines and decks. Of course, I then have to to and read those stories to get get the full benefit.

I find out a lot of interesting things via Facebook. And I like seeing what my friends are reading, and what they find interesting. But we owe it to ourselves, and to the journalism industry to also seek news from a trusted source.



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