Where do you get your news from? It is TV, newspapers, Google alerts, Twitter?
A 2012 survey in America conducted by aytm, ‘Breaking News via Social Media’, found 28 per cent of people get their news regularly from social media. The survey also revealed 23 percent of people have found out breaking news first from social media before it appeared on official news sources.
A recent example is the London Olympic Games where people watching the events live in London are posting pictures and comments on social media platforms. The NBC network in America chose not to air the Olympic footage live and instead aired taped footage on a time delay. This means Americans are finding out the results of the games on social media before they actually see it on TV.
Other examples include when Whitney Houston’s death was announced on social media before official news sites could report it. The raid on Osama bin Laden was tweeted unknowingly by his neighbour complaining about helicopters over his house.
So how can social media release breaking news before official news sites?
This occurs because anyone experiencing an event or newsworthy story can take a photo or write a comment and post it straight away on social media sites. The immediacy and reach of social media means it can be shared and dispersed all over the world in minutes. Official news sites need to follow a process of checking their facts and interviewing key people before releasing the news. This means they may not be able to release news as instantly as social media.
However, many major news outlets have started posting their breaking news headlines to social media. While not always as quick as first accounts, they are getting faster in releasing news.
Social media democratises the news because anyone can post information without going through a filter. In addition because it is so accessible people can scroll through a Twitter feed and get news updates without having to read a newspaper.
However if anyone can post news on social media, how do we know we can trust everything we read on these platforms?
The aytm survey revealed that 17 per cent of people have often heard a breaking news story on social media that was untrue. For example the death of Jackie Chan was broken on social media and later turned out to be untrue.
This means people should still be wary of the information they read on social media. Unlike official news sources social media can be biased and does not go through a rigorous fact checking process. If you see news on social media you should still look to major news sites for confirmation before you believe it.
Do you use social media to read the news?
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