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In a world where news is ubiquitous, social, and instant, what is the quality of that news?

Many consider it to be instant where in fact it may take a several days to be verified. In a world full of instant amateur journalism how do we gauge the quality of that news and its provenance? There have been cases where stories are trending in twitter for example that turn out to be inaccurate.

If you could visualize a news-worthy story on social media it would be like a firestorm spreading across the web, but every firestorm is started from a spark and who can instantly verify if that spark wasn’t set for nefarious purposes, inferring that social news can also be manipulated .

It has been proven that any group of people will report an incident differently sometimes varying wildly. Even mainstream media such as the BBC etc are now referring to social media in their reports. Are we thus accepting a lower standard of news?

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    Dec 2 2012: The media seem to be showing an increasing interest in reporting issues of moral controversy; but unfortunately the line between mainstream and tabloid media has blurred, to the extent that people have been villified in the 'court of public opinion' with the help of the mainstream media, relying primarily on rumours and leaks. And once the story has hit the press, the genie can't be put back in the bottle.
    Hasty accusations of misconduct published online, although later proven to be untrue, may hang over a person's head for a long time, perhaps for life. Not to talk of the strain on the person's family and relationships.

    I think the quality of news has fallen to an all-time low because mediocres have flooded the field.
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    Dec 4 2012: Benghazi is a sample of the most recent multi directional event I can think of. That a attack occured was report by many sources and so that was pretty much a sure thing. After that statements both official and unofficial took us on a ride. Was it caused by a film .... a planned attack ... why no support ... statements by the embassy in Egypt ... statements by the Sec of State ... presidential statements.

    Even now we are seeing in Congressional hearings that the facts are blurred. It seems to have taken Susan Rices' career on a rollercoaster ride. Her appearance on national TV soon after the event has become a political issue.

    We have one station available in the metro area that always says there has been a _____ and we will provide that story when we can verify what has happened. I tend to put more faith in that station as they are correct more often than not.

    Another issue that is filling time and space is the fisical cliff and budget debates. That appears to be base on party lines and it depends on the station you watch what you are being told. I have tried the math of both sides and to be honest it does not add up either way. Both sides are using scare tactics to win support. I read some reports from speeches at Devos that I have placed some faith in. For me it is simple economics. You either want big government and intervention at many levels plus more programs that cannot be supported fiscially or not. In that I can do the math.

    Yep I have been sucked in and have eaten crow. The important thing is that I try to learn and grow from these events. There were some I really wanted to believe and that is also part of the problem. Of course there are always those among us who bring up any past errors ... wish I was as perfect as they are.

    All the best. Bob.
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    Dec 4 2012: My world doesn't seem to be full of instant amateur journalism. I don't get Twitter so I don't know how it works. Can you only get the Twitter feeds on subjects that interest you, that you already know something about? Thus presumably you might have some background to assess the news being handed you.

    I really haven't heard of any terrible mishaps occuring because of bad instant journalism. Perhaps you're overrating the quantity of reads of or influence of things like Twitter.
  • Dec 3 2012: Pathetically unreliable, incomplete and biased. IMO, this is not much worse than the major media. The best informed among us are not well informed at all.
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    Dec 3 2012: Whoever controls the media controls the mind.
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    Dec 2 2012: Frank Luther Mott (1941) defines yellow journalism in terms of five characteristics:

    1. scare headlines in huge print, often of minor news
    2. lavish use of pictures, or imaginary drawings
    3. use of faked interviews, misleading headlines, pseudoscience, and a parade of false learning from so-called experts
    4. emphasis on full-color Sunday supplements, usually with comic strips
    5. dramatic sympathy with the "underdog" against the system.

    Sound familiar, these were used to define the Yellow Press, so-called news reports with no real value beyond selling "soap". Social media has simply become a more immediate variation on an old song and dance to garner ratings (Likes, Tweets ect.)

    I also find much of what is reported as "news" on Network News Media to follow the same 5 characteristics.

    President Clinton was once asked what he felt was the biggest problem with politics today, he answered…."The Media"…

    We were accepting a "lower standard" long ago, it's just more obvious today...
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    Dec 2 2012: For humans, speed has always worked in the opposite direction of quality.

    So if you expect your news to be instant, you have to lower your expectation on its quality.

    If you prefer quality, then relax and take your time.

    You can't have both.

    Live stream events such as 9/11, where we could see what happened in realtime did have the 'speed factor', yet most of us could not process this data to finally grasp what was going on that very moment to extract its 'quality'.

    I was just thinking which public news I ever needed to know 'instantly' and at the same time in 'high quality'. So far, nothing comes to my mind on this. The only occasion I could imagine would be an accident in which family members, friends or close people could be involved without me having any other way of direct contact then via public media.

    Maybe this is why I prefer to read weekly newspapers instead of daily ones.

    And as a sidenote: Congratulations to 'your' BBC and the extraordinary quality of their documentaries! I even learned interesting facts about my own contry which I did not know before. Good job! :o)
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    Dec 2 2012: It has always been true that the "news" we hear in a social context cannot be assumed to be accurate. What has happened is that we hear a lot more news of this kind.

    It has always been important also to reserve judgment on the accuracy of what we hear from others, whether fact or interpretation. Beyond this, we all need to know whose statements we can trust because of the person's, or that organization's, standards of verification.
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    Dec 1 2012: Great question Greg!

    It is a big issue all over the world. Still, I would not be prooccupied so much with the quality of news as their shallowness.

    There is simply no time for deep understanding of the problems due to the amount and pace of the information. What happened 3 days ago is already a prehistoric news, and it is precisely this fact, more than any else, that I consider a fundamental issue leading to the acceptance of low standard of news.

    If people do not understand the news and do not have time for it, then the news serves the role of entertainment. From there you have but one step to ignoring whether the news it true or not.