" Social networking sites are a top news source for 27.8% of Americans, ranking below newspapers (28.8%) and above radio (18.8%) and print publications (6%). "
QOTD: In your opinion, is it a good thing almost the same amount of people who use newspapers for their news source use social networking sites? Is it a bad thing? Explain.
"Hrmm... I guess I've never really been one to think of Facebook or Twitter or other social networking sites as a place where I'd get accurate news that isn't completely driven by the giver's opinion...
But then again... when you really think about it, even traditional news sources will spin the truth by an opinion to try making the public feel a certain way about the topic. So perhaps I shouldn't think it too strange."
- H. Z.
"This is a fascinating topic. Historically, as societies evolve and develop, news is disseminated in various different ways. For most of human history, it has been the oral tradition that dominated. In the middle ages, and for much of antiquity, a town crier would stand in the town square (usually upon a pedestal) and introduce the important news to the people. These could be anything from advertising for a certain shop in town (Yes, they had commercials even back then!) to various decrees by the kings and emperors of the time.
Oral communication was important for a number of reasons. The printing press was only invented by Gutenburg in 1439- although there were cruder 'block presses' before which attempting to mass produce writing. Before the invention of the printing press, every book was written by hand. This made them a considerable time investment, which meant that the written word was extremely expensive in terms of cost. Thus, newspapers were just too expensive to be efficient. Since writing was expensive, reading became a thing of the elite. Those who had wealth and power, learned to read. The common person would not.
This is why oral news was extremely important. It was very easy to shout, and everyone would understand you. Now, after industrialization, you had the invention of the printing press which made it extremely easy to create the written word. This spurred people to learn to read, as knowledge became disseminated easily throughout the known world.
The first modern newspaper is actually traced to germany, in the year 1605 by Johann Carolus called "Account of all distinguished and commemorable news." But even back then, news was not just news. This is why this question is so interesting. News has always been about opinions, and from the very beginning it was news with a bit of opinion. As media developed, especially in the United States, you had an element of opinion and what the news world calls "Spinning" where you angle the facts to portray a certain viewpoint. This reached its peak in the 20th century with the rise of "Yello Journalism" in New York City, which was news that attempted to sensationalize and entertain, rather than tell news, in an attempt to sell money.
With the rise of the internet in the 21st century, we're seeing now a shift away from traditional news in the form of writing on paper, to news written digitally. This has had interesting consequences. Information on an international scale is now tightly knit, and I can find news about everything going on globally in a matter of seconds. Also, unlike traditional news, anyone can write on the internet. This has created a democratic outlet where literally hundreds of opinions can be viewed online, from the crazy to the moderate, with absolutely no accountability.
Do you see why this is such a fascinating question?
What you're really asking is if it's a good thing that suddenly, instead of the opinions of ten important news agencies, I get the opinions of over a million different people. Which can seem good, but it's also terrible.
I mean, now there's so much information, that the truth has been covered. The truth is distracted by a million different opinions, that it takes actual effort to uncover it. Alternatively, now the truth is accessible to anyone. Anyone can write, express, and disgest information online.
With all that said, I think it's a good thing. I think even though it has caused, and will cause, problems with over-saturation of opinion and even more yellow journalism, writing online is cheap and takes the power out of the hands of several main news outlets. That is the beauty of progress. It increases freedom, thought, and opinion.
So yes, it's a good thing."