The combination of social media and the 24 hour news cycle has lead to the manufacture and distribution of poor quality news and commentary, making it harder to separate the chaff from the wheat. The consumer is faced with the challenge of finding the good stuff.
Blogs abound, some written by informed commentators, many with a particular bias or point of view. News organizations in countries like Canada, the US and UK are caught up in this rat race. CBC/Radio Canada, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC compete for audiences, resulting in the distribution of a mass of worthless or often low quality content. Motivated by advertising revenue where audiences are sold to advertisers, these organizations compete to keep audiences tied to their output.
As for many other activities, communications technology has had an impact on the news media. Today, print and especially broadcast news media are fashioned as entertainment. Many consumers no longer put aside time to read a daily newspaper and listen to or view a daily broadcast, they access news 24/7 in a variety of ways which news organizations try to supply.
How can the consumer access quality (factual and unbiased) news reporting and commentary? The offerings are as varied as that of restaurant menus in a large city. My choice for quality news includes amongst others the following:
- Newspapers – Globe and Mail, New York Times, Financial Times, Economist
- TV – PBS The News Hour and Charlie Rose, TVO The Agenda with Steve Paquin. What appeals to me about these programs is that the anchors are informed and ask tough questions, but do not insert their own views into the content. That is not the case for the 24 hour news channels.
- Blogs – The Conversable Economist, Arts and Letters Daily, Thought du Jour
This may seem a short list, but since there are only 24 hours in a day and each of these items, especially the blogs, lead to further reading, they can consume a lot of time. The bad news is that there is a mass of low quality news distributed daily, often by organizations which once had a reputation for good journalism. The good news is that today’s communications technology allows for the distribution of high quality content, but this requires the user to spend time in searching for it.