RBC | Shotgun or sniper rifle? It depends on the job you’re trying to do.
It’s the same way with news.
Do you want a smattering of buckshot—some hits, some misses? Social media is great for this. Quickly get an overview of country and world events by firing up a screen (just be prepared for a whopping dose of misinformation and “expert” opinions mixed in.)
If, however, you want targeted local news, and prefer it be served without a side of junk, a newspaper is the tool for you.
I never dreamed I’d end up in the newspaper business, but even before we dove into this industry, I believed social media was a problematic news source (the whole selling of your personal information for profit thing aside.)
For one, you will never see a town council write up in your news widget. Second, even if you did, honest journalism about boring things like budgets will never win over an adorable cat video. Our brains like fluff, and without the discipline to educate ourselves, we’ll choose “junk food” every time.
The third problem, is that it is extremely difficult to focus properly whilst using social media. It’s designed that way to fragment your attention and make you more susceptible to messages. You may feel like you’re simply “relaxing” or “interacting with friends,” but in reality you’re being force-fed massive amounts of information, and you’re not very likely to analyze it with critical thinking skills. Hence the proliferation of absurdity.
Finally, and most concerning in my opinion, is that thanks to algorithms created by software much smarter than any of us, there is absolutely no guarantee you’ll see the information that truly matters to you. You see what “they” want you to see; you see what “they” serve you.
I’ll be the first (in what is probably a very long line) to wave my hands in the air and scream, “The newspaper is not perfect!” We do our darnedest, though, and God help us, we actually believe our founding fathers knew what they were doing when they expressly protected freedom of the press.
Somehow, I can’t see George Washington, John Adams or Thomas Jefferson sifting through a time-sucking morass of memes, catfights, quizzes, Tupperware parties, misinformation, so-called “experts” and staged vacation photos to find information about the world in which they lived. Can you?