The following question appeared on Aussie Yarns comments from a reader recently. Among other things, the reader asked, “Why do visitors to this site still read newspapers when in this technological age and globe, everything is accessible on the web?”
It motivated me to try and give an answer, even if it isn’t accepted. Here it is.
A simple answer is that some people don’t have computers or access to the web. That, however, is simplistic and the question goes a lot deeper.
I believe part of the answer is because there should be more trust in newspaper journalists and journalism than in on-line journalism and articles. While some individuals and organizations in both spheres can be classified as “purveyors of fake news”, there is a difference. Think, for example, of magazines and website news sources, including Facebook which some people say is where they get all their news, and Yahoo7. Sites like Yahoo7 are basically news sites and usually contain article after article on people such as the Kardashians, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie and their personal relationship or comment on an individual’s view of “what Donald Trump really meant”. Who each writer is and where he or she got their information is never cited. At least on Facebook, there are some pointers to the author(s).
But on Yahoo7 and comparable sites, they seem to publish four or five times a day. So those writing must grab anything that looks as if it might attract a little attention and throw it up. Think Brad and Angelina again, or the British Royal Family, or, to get to a completely different level, incessant headlines about MKR or The Block or other reality TV shows. There is no citation of any description, except of course, the obligatory exchange between an abusive host and a teary contestant.
It’s virtually impossible to designate responsibility for what appears on any site, news or social media. That is partly because of the many levels of “ownership” and the strategy of “sharing”. Who owns an article or comment: is it Internet Explorer, Google or Mozilla for allowing, or is it the site owner, the author, the advertiser, the “sharer”, someone who comments anonymously or hackers who have decided to have fun? Is it the Russian or Chinese Governments attempting to influence the rest of the world? Try suing for defamation to see the impossibility of defining responsibility.
At least magazines and newspapers, (even though most are accessible on-line anyway these days), are published weekly or daily, there is more identification of the author, evidence is often cited within and as appendages to articles, and writers or various levels of editorial personnel can be accessed and challenged. In other words, there are more rigorous standards set and attempts are made at maintaining those standards.
Having said all that, however, there are virtues in social media formats. Facebook and Twitter, for all their failings as mediums of news, have the virtue of maintaining interpersonal communication and contacts. Sites like Wikipedia does its best to be open and honest, not only in how it operates, but in asking for sources of information if anyone adds content. And there are others that have similar virtues.
But my main point is that trusting solely in the web for information is as foolish as believing everything one reads in a newspaper. Of all I’ve learned from life itself, and I had clearly defined and re-defined through post graduate study, the most pertinent is, “and whatever you hear, question it and keep an open mind, even if the evidence suggests it is true.”