The rise of unconventional news sources has both pros and cons

May 20, 2019 — by Sofia Jones and Aaria Thomas

To stay updated with news and current events, senior Nirav Adunuthula browses The New York Times website and channels on TV for interesting stories on politics and interesting events happening around the world. In addition to that he also scrolls through his instagram feed to check for any posts relating worldly current events.

In the years before the social media revolution, news consumers had to choose only between, say, The New York Times and the Washington Post or CBS News or ABC News.  Consumers’ choices are infinitely more complex now.

According to the American Press Institute, because of the distractions of social media, researchers and social critics are worried that millennials (classified as the generation born between 1980 and 2000) and Generation Z (the generation born after 2000) have become more ignorant about news.

The main concern is that people in this younger generation lack awareness of the world. Many teens are spending a large amount of time on social media platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat and in response, there have been many new accounts created to spread news to this younger generation.

“When I’m scrolling through my social media, I like to see news accounts so I can be informed of important events in a casual way,” junior Rayne Schulman said. “Social media usually gives news in an easier way, which makes new information more accessible.”

However, news from social media is filled with overwhelming amounts of information from various sources that they may be unimportant such as celebrity gossip.

Stories following the relationships of actors and the drama of YouTube stars, such as the James Charles and Tati Westbrook fight, make up a large portion of some social media sites.

These types of stories are often much more lighthearted and interesting to read than gruesome tales of what is happening around the world.

In addition to being unnecessary, the news younger readers get from platforms such as Instagram or Reddit can also have questionable accuracy. These news pages are run by individuals who post news, also called citizen journalists. These “journalists” are often biased, omitting crucial details to fit the individual’s personal narrative.

According to one of the main disadvantages of citizen journalism is allowing the opinions of the “journalist” to distort the piece. Without a grounding in the importance of impartiality, these so-called reporters merely advocate for their own beliefs rather than telling the multiple sides of a story.

While Adunuthula gets his news from traditional news sources and social media, if forced to choose between the two he would rely on the traditional sources.

“There are biases no matter where you get your news from, but with traditional news sources, facts tend to be checked more thoroughly by multiple people,” Adunuthula said.

Another worry about getting news from social media is the accuracy. If those who rely on social media to receive their news do not check the stories with other sites and instead blindly accept what they read, false information can spread like a virus. Journalism professor David Hazinski of University of Georgia says citizen journalism is closer to gossip than traditional institutional journalism.

According to a Stanford study during the 2016 presidential elections, 115 fake pro-Trump stories had been spread on social media and 41 fake pro-Clinton stories had been spread. These inaccurate stories would have caused confusion about the candidates and what they stood for and have done. These misunderstandings  could have strongly affected how people voted in the elections.

When someone looks at a citizen journalist’s posts on social media like Instagram, the story is usually put in the caption, or squeezed into fit on a picture. News stories can be long in order to get all the necessary information to the readers, but viewers on Instagram may not feel like reading such a long caption, rendering it ineffective. It is also hard to fit an entire story into a photo, meaning some key information will be left out. Reducing a story to just a photo makes it much more unreliable.

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