The media industry is far more powerful than most people realise; just take a look at these stats from The New York Times, where the publication “drew nearly 600 000 digital subscribers during three months of 2020.”

This means that there are a huge number of people reading what The New York Times has to say. As human rights activist Malcolm X famously said, “The media's the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that's power because they control the minds of the masses.”

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the problems:

1. Fake news

2020 has definitely seen its fair share of fake news being published and shared around the world, making people a lot more concerned than they have to be. For example, when individuals started becoming more aware of COVID-19, they started flocking to every online platform, including Instagram or Facebook, to get their news. These platforms saw countless online rumours begin to appear that were simply not true.

Take, for instance, The Conversation, which wrote an article titled Coronavirus misinformation is a global issue, but which myth you fall for likely depends on where you live. This piece looks at how fake news has travelled and the aftermath of its impact by making people worry about things that are far from the truth.

Here is a graph that takes a look at the number of misinformation narratives that travelled during the month of January and July showing some really scary stats:

The same concerns come up with anti-vaxxers. Although there are studies proving the benefits of vaccinations, and people are equipped with the knowledge of understanding that vaccines “can prevent the spread of highly infectious (and lethal) diseases, the number of people refusing vaccines has increased.”

Because of the amount of conflicting news stories and the prevalence of fake news, many people still choose to believe rumours or back up their thoughts with inaccurate content. Some anti-vaxxers have even started sharing fake news campaigns claiming that the “coronavirus vaccines will be used to implant microchips into people.”

Instead of sticking to the facts, or just simply saying that they disagree with people who vaccinate themselves and their families, these fear mongers share content aimed at scaring people, which can lead to bigger issues.

These campaigns also make their way onto news sites, and there are so many times where people don’t read the entire article. Instead, they only read the headline or see an excerpt on social media, accept it to be true and then share the ‘halves’ of information with friends and family.

2. People choose their news platforms

With countless platforms where people can share information, it has become hard to narrow it down to which platforms are best to get your news from. Recently, Digital News Report took a look at some of the most important findings [about social media and news consumptions] in 2020 and found that “across age groups, the use of Instagram for news has doubled since 2018.”

This means that a huge number of people make use of Instagram to get their news, and the issue with this is: once a person finds something that they don’t like or agree with, they can simply click the unfollow button or block that account or hashtag. This leads to the user encountering a ‘filter bubble’, meaning that they “only hear or see news and information that supports what they already believe.”

The issue then occurs with what type of news you will find on your Instagram feed. If you blocked anything regarding, for example, Trump’s election content, you will likely see Joe Biden’s content, leaving you to only see content from the left-wing. This can limit the information that you receive, leaving you with only bits and pieces and you will never understand the full picture.

In an article by The Conversation, Dr Laura Glitsos asked a very interesting question:

As increasing numbers of people turn to Instagram for their news, the question remains: Is this the news they need, or simply the news they want to see?
It’s so important that people are taught that the news should not be about what you like and want to see; it needs to be transparent and tell you the truth about what is going on in the world. This will ensure that you, as the reader, can make informed decisions regarding your stand on certain issues.

3. No one questions the media

People are taught from a young age that the news is true and that’s just how it is; if you saw it on TV or read it in a newspaper or found an article online it must be true — right? Well actually, that’s not always the case!

With so many publications out there, it has become a competitive industry where everyone is trying to be the first one to talk about a new story or issues, or getting the most readers and ensuring those readers come back to their publication. This has caused the media industry to tell the news in a different way than how it once did.

For example, The Washington Post makes use of two-sentence headlines, which indicates the standard form of clickbait. Although they have been really good at sticking to quality journalism with a ‘hint of clickbait’, it makes it hard when a person only reads the headline and then takes to social media to share their opinion on the story.

The biggest concerns come in when it’s clear that consumers don't question the media. Readers will share with others the things they find interesting that they read online — regardless if they believe to be true or not— and then, of course, they will discuss it further, which only fuels the traction that fake news has in the industry.

It is time that the media industry speaks up on these problems and educates their readers on:
  • how to identify reliable sources
  • avoiding relying on celebrities or social media for the news
  • doing research once they read something in the news
  • not sharing the news if they are not sure that it is indeed 100% accurate
  • questioning the things that they hear and read online, and
  • educating them on filter bubbles.
This way, consumers can read the news with an open mind and remember that they can’t believe everything they read to be true, transparent or free of bias. The media industry needs to take it upon itself to better educate its readers, to ensure the betterment of the lives of its readers.

What are your thoughts on these problems within the media industry? What are some other problems that you have picked up in the media space in 2020? Be sure to let us know in the comments section below.

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With the media industry facing problems when it comes to reliable news, consumers seem to be willing to pay for content if they know it’s high quality and reliable. Find out more here, where, as it Turns out, readers will fund quality journalism.
*Image courtesy of Vecteezy