Guest Post by: Ashley Cheffer, Aspiring Public Relations Professional
While reading the news, we like to know that what we are reading is accurate. This has become increasing difficult with the introduction of social media. Social media allows news to be sent and read quickly. In many cases, this is a large benefit. When individuals and news sources tweet or post news on social media, it is expected that that news will be true. This is not always the case as seen with the Boston bombing.
With social media today, anyone can post anything and can be considered a reporter. The Internet gives power to the individual and with power comes responsibility. With a platform that allows for the sharing of information so quickly, quick information is expected. As a news reporter, you want to live up to the public’s expectations. An example of effective and beneficial use of social media was when Bin Laden’s death was credibly confirmed on Twitter before President Obama spoke. The news travelled quickly and allowed the public to be in on the big news.
When a news story comes out to the public, each news source has a different heading and a different technique of reporting. It is our responsibility to read more than one story to get the full picture and make sure that it is the accurate picture. When looking at the shooting in St. Louis involving Vonderrit Meyers, each news outlet that reported on the case stressed different aspects. Whether this is intentional or not, the way the story is framed affects the way the reader interprets the story. Before social media, news stories would be released in newspapers and would be fact checked and would have to be accurate to the best of their knowledge. With the speed of social media, this is not always possible. An example where news was reported inaccurately was when Fox and CNN mistakenly reported that Supreme Court struck down the ‘individual mandate’ part of the health care law. They reported what they knew or what they thought they knew as quick as they could.
The ethical implications of this are that if the truth is not being conveyed, the story is false. Painting people or stories in a false light is not ethical. When I read a story, I want to know that I am receiving all of the facts that are present to decide for myself what the truth of the story is. This relates back to discussions on loyalties. Reporters want to do what makes their readers happy, and that is quick and accurate news. Sometimes it is hard to deliver accurate news as quickly as is expected on social media. This puts more responsibility in the hands of the public and readers to check more than one source for the truth in the news.