Social Content: The Blurry Line Between Subjective and Objective Journalism

2013-08-25 09:37:16 By LorenzoPrinci

The internet is an endless library of data, created by millions (perhaps billions) of people from every corner of the globe. Written words, music, videos and more are all uploaded to the world wide web every instant and shared through a multitude of real-time feeds. However unlike a traditional library, where all published content available has been validated by some sort of subject matter experts or even the law before being made available to the general public, things are much more loose on the internet. A lot of content can be classified as subjective for the most part as it is very easy for people to start a blog or even post an entry into an on-line "encyclopaedia". It is even quite common for users to be encouraged to comment on news articles or tweet to specific hashtags to create a sense of community.

It goes without saying that the quality of content in such a large pool is heavily diluted, so it is fair that universities don't allow students to reference Wikipedia in their essays; yes, it is a great source to quickly reference almost anything and not to mention free, but it's no substitute for traditionally published works. It does however fit in well with whole open-sourced nature of the internet community at large. A community based on sharing solutions to already solved problems. It means problem solvers can move onto other pain points rather than waste time repeating something someone else has done. The speed at which web development has progressed in recent years owes much to this strong communal sharing. It's a very Roddenberry ideology; forget the money, let's just make things better.

Personally, I believe that user created content should be fun. Take it with a grain of salt but enjoy it. Enjoy reading it and enjoy creating it. I have half a dozen or so web properties that I work on aside from my actual day job. They are all hobbies in which I share my thoughts on my areas of interest, some of which I can claim expertise, others which I'm simply enthusiastic about (like this particular spowt). What they all have in common is that without the internet, my audience wouldn't exist, not that it's very big anyway, but you get the idea. I'm also able to try things which I would never have had an opportunity to, for instance, a friend and I now rant away our afternoons on a weekly YouTube show. We aren't under any illusion that we are going to break into mainstream radio or even get any subscribers, however all it costs is our time. It has also been a good learning curve in regards to sound recording sound and mixing as well as some basic video editing, not to mention good fun.

Where I see most of the problems pertaining to user created content is the newish trend of it's infiltration into the traditional media and journalism space. These channels should be giving their audiences validated and objective content, especially as they often charge for it. Now sure, they might receive some amateur photography and the like from someone who captured a newsworthy event but when a news site reports on the "controversial" decision by Warner Bros. to cast Ben Affleck as Batman in the upcoming Man of Steel sequel and the article is made up of embedded tweets, well they are basically aggregating. Not to mention the re-posting articles directly from sites such as Mashable.

More and more, the lines between objective, subjective, exaggeration, lies and truth are becoming blurred. Though I'm weary of the danger, I do keep an optimistic view overall. The beauty of the internet is that not only can users create whatever they want, they can also choose just as easily what they want to see and what they don't. This is fundamental, as with traditional sources, they were often spoon fed whatever the various outlets dished out.

The trend adopted by these traditional news and media companies, despite all their resources, is to opt for "social" content in an attempt to fit in. Sounds clever. However they are essentially digging their own grave. No one needs a newspaper to read tweets and blog posts, however if they focused more on objective and researched journalism, they would be offering something people couldn't get elsewhere. Essentially they would be delivering quality over quantity but of course, that's not exactly hip but maybe crazy enough to work?

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