“Real” News: a Needle in a Haystack

Posted by Marissa Mumford

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Credit to Communicore82, Licensed under Creative Commons

A common frustration is apparent in many of the class’s blog posts as we witness front pages flooded with killer cats and celebrity baby announcements. So what is “news,” anyway? What deserves to make the front page? What is worth our attention and where can we get the best information?

 

It has become increasingly hard to know what true news is because we are bombarded with a constant barrage of information.

Anyone with an Internet connection can find out what is going on in the world. We have newspapers, blogs, tabloids, talk shows, live coverage and websites dedicated to news. Social media’s popularity gives us access we never had before. Facebook users share headlines, the BBC is on Instagram, and our president uses Twitter.

We have great tools for news consumption. The difficulty is understanding what is most important for us to know.

As future journalists, it is our duty to be informed more than the average college student. Our generation is often criticized for its lack of general knowledge. We live in a “have it your way” world where we can read Fox News or The Huffington Post depending on our political stance. We can choose to check topical websites Refinery29, Cnet or BuzzFeed instead of opening a newspaper. We are consumers of news, but on our own terms.

Don’t get me wrong, variety is fantastic for journalism. It means freedom of speech is still alive. It means we are not limited to a specific point of view. It also means there is no perfect, complete coverage of news in one place. Because we can pick and choose, the likelihood of missing something important is high. USA Today features stories that the Wall Street Journal doesn’t, and vice versa.

There is no miracle fix for the media. SuperJournalist and ObjectiveMan aren’t going to sweep in from space and start the ideal news website. In my experience, the only way to make sure we stay informed  is to never trust one single source and always look for different views on controversial topics. There isn’t always a right answer, but if it exists it may not be on the front page.


 

As a journalism student, how do you find reliable news? Do certain websites seem to provide better coverage than others? Can we rely on popular websites to provide us with the essential? Is there ever a way to make sure we don’t “miss” anything important, or is it inevitable?

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7 responses to ““Real” News: a Needle in a Haystack

  1. Marissa, you raise some great points here, and I agree with your argument. There is no simple fix for finding “real news.” If I recall back from when I took j66 with Lori Blachford, there are sort of two sides to the spectrum of what is “news”: what the public enjoys and what they need to know. Journalists should strive to find a balance. If it is at all possible to engage the reader on a topic that they otherwise might not read while still managing to be accurate and factual, then that is what should be done. But as much as it is the media’s responsibility, it is also the consumer’s. As consumers of news, people should be able to read a story from one source to another and decide for themselves what to make of it. The point of the news is to help the public stay informed and think critically, not just blindly absorb any and all information they come across without thinking twice about it.

  2. I agree completely with both of you. As journalists, we do have a responsibility to be informed and stay informed. Balance is crucial when sorting through the news of the hour. At the very least, we should watch or listen to broadcast news, and check a variety of online (local, national, global, human interest, entertainment, and individual interest) news sites on a regular basis. It is up to the individual which sites they prefer to use, but all bases should be covered. After some time, it becomes easier to discern what is news and what is not.

  3. We were discussing this in J66 today. We were talking about what was in the headlines during break and of course Flight 370 was mentioned. We talked about how the theories have been thrown out there from so many different sources and mediums that we are all forced to pick and choose what is the “right” ending to the tragedy. We also talked about how the coverage of the missing plane as taken over the news to an extent that Putin is over there doing whatever and even the North Korea crap we did not hear much about because every story seems to revolve around Flight 370. I know I may be exaggerating a little but you get the idea.I am not saying that we should not be sensitive to this huge topic, however, some sort of balance is needed in order to keep the people properly informed across the board.
    It is also a bit frustrating that this Judge Joe Brown thing is being blown out of proportion. He lost his temper in court, so what? Is it necessary to plaster his mug shot all over the internet and make it a major story? No, but it entertains people unfortunately.

    • I think at the end of the day it all comes down to money. News outlets are a business first and foremost. Sadly, it seems that they have found that the only way to turn a profit in the world today is to focus on only those stories that the public wants to hear rather than what they need to hear. They know that Flight 370 and Judge Joe Brown will sell papers, so that’s what they are forced to cover.

  4. All of you raise excellent points! I think what Amanda said about the public having responsibility as well is a key point. The media only produces what we want to hear. If there is no demand for ridiculous headlines, tabloids and yellow journalism, it will disappear. The mere fact that it still exists speaks to society’s tendencies to be more interested in things that are frankly less important.

  5. averygregurich

    I think that the current state of affairs is novel in terms of precedence. No other time in history have we had access to so much information at the same time. With everything vying for our attention, it is the job of journalists to make the “things that matter” relevant to a population that can easily click away or close their browsers.

    • Avery, I totally agree. It almost seems as though journalists have a greater task than they have ever before, because of the amount of information vying for the public’s attention. I really like the idea of journalists being the ones to create relevance and sort of “part the waters” to help people see what is most important.

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