By CLARA BENDAYAN
The evolution and progression of social media have paved the path for novel ways to share news.
News sources are no longer limited to articles on websites or television programs. Outlets such as Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr have become sources for people to check the goings on around the world.
While it’s very convenient to be able to scroll through a Twitter feed and receive news, it isn’t always the most reliable way to secure accurate details. Twitter is a conversational, flow of thoughts type of outlet. People generate countless tweets in minutes, each reporting further details as more information is discovered and facts can be disproved within seconds. Another issue is the source of the news. Different news outlets inevitably stand out as more verifiable than others based on past credibility as well as the type of news they’re associated with.
A tweet from a reporter at CNN or Huffington Post is likely to be a very accurate source when seeking error-free and immediate news. Although some major news outlets provided some false information in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing last April, this can be attributed to the mere fact that reporting at an instant amid such a chaotic event prioritizes fast news rather than deliberate research to verify all facts.
Contrastingly, news outlets known for celebrity gossip such as TMZ come into question when searching for reliable news. When actor Paul Walker tragically died suddenly in a car accident last November, many celebrity gossip outlets immediately sent out a slew of tweets announcing his death. Facts were stated then retracted, later restated and retracted once again. False information was released as the article was published amidst the investigation, while many facts were still unknown. Many people tweeted that they refused to believe the news until a more reputable source confirmed it. Sure enough, after news sources such as The Los Angeles Times and The Huffington Post confirmed it, people began to send their condolences via Twitter and Facebook. Many people also went on to criticize and point out the multitude of inconsistencies present in the TMZ story after reading the complete, factual account from other more credible news outlets.
The same situation occurred this past week with the recent unexpected death of Philip Seymour Hoffman. Drug-related deaths tend to be very sudden and unanticipated, and people don’t accept the facts until they see confirmation on reputable news sources and televised news programs. In this case, TMZ was among the first news outlets to break the tragic story. Many people refused to believe it as there were rumors of a death hoax surrounding Hoffman before his actual passing. A while after TMZ broke the story people finally began to accept the news when The Wall Street Journal tweeted confirmation.
A journalist’s credibility is of utmost importance as no publication or outlet wants to be associated with a reporter whose credibility comes into question. Aside from TMZ, there are countless websites that report mainly gossip or focus on entertainment news rather than hard news. With the Internet, the line between what is real and what is a hoax has become incredibly hazy. Many news websites don’t pride themselves on accuracy and focus instead on delivering scandalous news that will appeal to readers.
Magazines such as Ok! and Star sell out on stands because people want to indulge in some quick gossip. However, when it comes to seeking out serious news people want nothing to do with them.
So, while we enjoy indulging in our guilty pleasures and reading celebrity gossip, perhaps their topics of coverage have garnered them an unfortunate position of incredibility when it comes to reporting serious news. While social media sites have been vital in advancing the way in which reporters deliver immediate news, they have also been instrumental in exposing people to the fact that news may not always be verifiable and not all sources can or should be trusted blindly. Should TMZ strictly stick to reporting the whereabouts and affairs of Hollywood’s starlets and leave the serious work for CNN, The Wall Street Journal and the like? Many people seem to think it best.