Social Media and the News Revolution: Who Can We Trust?

The moment I see something intriguing on Twitter, I turn to whoever is nearby and share what I read. Whether it be breaking news of a tragic shooting, Miley Cyrus’s newly released music video, or a funny quote from a friend; the impulsive desire to share content drives our consumption of news. What I often fail to think about, however, is how credible the information is that I not only just consumed, but passed along.

In the connected world we live in today, it’s fascinating to observe how quickly a story can become the most popular buzz on a variety of social media platforms. But the troubling side of this is how naive and over-trusting consumers have become, myself included.

Courtesy of Google Images

Courtesy of Google Images

I’m not saying the media is not to be trusted. I am an avid consumer of the news and constantly share articles and videos with my friends and family. However, I have begun to change my habits on social media, viewing news with a new sense of scrutiny. Since we are bombarded with more information than ever before, shouldn’t it be the duty of both creators and consumers of content to spend that much more time ensuring their validity?

In his article “The Year We Broke the Internet,” Luke O-Neil addresses the idea that share-ability and traffic may have become more important to some companies than telling the complete truth. He says:

The mistakes, and the falsehoods, and the hoaxes are a big part of a business plan driven by the belief that big traffic absolves all sins, that success is a primary virtue.”

We are so concerned with the number of likes, favorites, shares and retweets we receive, but how far are we willing to go for this activity? Steve Fox highlights this issue in “My Tweet-off with CNN’s Jake Tapper,” where he displays his exchange with a reporter during the LAX shooting.

His point is clear: regardless of the type of news you are reporting, sourcing your information is essential. The aspiration to be the first news outlet to report on a story cannot surpass the duty to report the truth and back up your facts.

It is important to recognize that journalists will make mistakes. No one is perfect, but Jeff Jarvis discusses how journalists must own up to their mistakes in his piece “Product v. process journalism: The myth of perfection v. beta culture.” He claims:

We who publish must learn how to say what we don’t know at least as well as we say what we know.

In a world of information overload, the ability to admit that we don’t know everything is not failure. In my mind, that is what sets a trustworthy journalist apart from the rest.