I am sitting on a bench on a lazy Saturday evening in the digital land of the web. The lights are dimming as I watch the web traffic across the street fly past in a blur of bits and byes. I hear the boy standing on the corner of the street, his sing song voice calling out to anyone who passes by,
He clutches the fresh headlines under his arm and in his out-stretched hand waving. So I whistle to him and reach into my pocket to pull out a coin. But before I finish, he tips his head at me and then throws me a paper without a second glance.
As I look down at the crisp white sheets there is no big name sprawled across the top. Instead the columns twist like a rubix cube, jostling and shuffling its content in its desire to be called “news”. Some bare the names of familiar printed brands, but there among them I see the search engines, the web-only media and social media platforms too, all vying for my attnetion.
Our views and tastes for news has been changed by the web and with it, the perception of the people who should and can deliver it to us.
- Anybody on the web, can now be a journalist. With a video, tweet or photo, they are a smartphone away from the front line, the reporters at the scene in the instant and behind the stories that might otherwise be lost.
- Anybody on the web can’t be a journalist because they’re not accountable to anyone for getting their facts right, being bias in their reporting or writing poorly.
Neither of the above statements are quite as straight forward as they seem. Being on the front line entails risks where citizen journalists can become targeted by governments or others, more so than professionals who are protected by professional bodies and laws. Whilst trust in traditional media diminishes precisely because of the instances of unethical behaviour and glaring mistakes.
The landscape of news on the web is still changing to deal with these issues and it is far from clear yet, how the dust will settle.
For now though, I am only grateful for the variety of platforms and people willing to bring that news to the web. I get up from my seat, folding the paper under my arm and as I stroll away, I feel the news feeds from a multitude of voices still buzzing at my side.