News in the age of social media

NEWS delivery has changed radically since the coming of social media. Once a primary source, many newspapers function more as fact-checkers, with social media providing the scoops or breaking news. From reading to viewing, social media has revolutionised the way people devour news.

Some news channels are adapting to the reality, catching up with citizen journalists by delivering news in the form of visual illustrations and audio narrations, with more graphics and sound, and fewer words. Such depicts the urgency of news outlets placing and making themselves comfortable in the ecosystem of social media.

Ten years from now, perhaps, there might no longer be newspapers as the world population becomes increasingly digitally integrated. Most news outlets have adjusted to this by having the print version of their news online.

Instead of rivalling social media, news outlets are leveraging off the platform to reach a wider audience online. Despite overflowing user-generated content, rest assured, news outlets as the voices of authority will remain relevant because in contrast to social media, news outlets are committed to the truth. Although reported news may not be always foolproof, news outlets are held accountable for their news.

However, some news outlets in their desperation to attain higher readership, see their journalism ethics get compromised. Understandably, news outlets generating revenue through advertising heavily depend on the sites' traffic. But serving clickbaits to readers may distort the truth – the essence of news.

Coming across news with misleading headlines, one has to wonder whether such news counts. Sensational headlines not corroborating the content can easily create confusion and misunderstanding among readers who might arrive at a conclusion different from the truth, just after reading them. Although readers themselves have to peruse news more than reading the one-line title, journalists have to title an article reflecting the whole of content.

Content-wise, although journalists should feed the audiences with issues that interest them, reporting on things that matter should be the priority. It is an insult to a readers' intellect to serve them with viral but unimportant issues assuming that it is their preferred news. As informers, journalists' duty stretches beyond telling readers what they want to know; readers also have to be informed of what they need to know.

Notably, each news outlet has its own in-house style, specific goals and target audience. But in any case, keeping the balance by being objective in news reporting should be pursued. More than a manifestation of the commitment to the truth, producing objective, fact-based news is a strategy that stays relevant across space and time.

News slanted towards a certain party will not thrive in this digital age which, predominantly through social media, connects people from different backgrounds and of varying views. As people become more sensitive to the national and international issues (thanks to social media), their news diet would change; they would expect to listen to diverse views, not a monolithic view that presents one party as a saint and others not having the same wavelength as that party, as evil. I think this is the area where social media wins; it gives every party a chance to speak up and represent themselves.

Just log on to social media and you will see contesting views on some issues; in a way, the situation represents the diversity of our thoughts and behaviours, which is more than black and white. News outlets should therefore weigh the multiple views and present them in a balanced voice.

Regardless of the platform and way of delivery it is my belief that ultimately news that is worthy of being news should be parallel with the reality.