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11 Jun 2020

Journalism under pressure: Why social media increases the need to combat fake news and keep up with overnight trends

Not all that long ago, fresh news stories arrived on your doorstep in the morning or were broadcast at set times on local television and radio stations. Now, consumers can refresh the headlines as often as their internet connection or WiFi access allows. Social platforms like Twitter and Facebook, 24-hour news networks and news websites have led consumers to expect new stories to browse with every glance at a TV, computer, or smartphone. While social media has done wonders connecting people with each other and with stories, it has accelerated the pace at which media professionals must conduct background research, vet sources, and deliver trustworthy content. From combatting fake news to keeping up with readers’ expectations of constant, up-to-date coverage, new challenges arise all the time, adding pressure to the already breakneck pace demanded of journalists. This is not likely to change anytime soon, so the only remedy is to find better ways to work.

The negatives

With the refresh button a click away, readers expect fresh content to be available constantly. We all fall into this trap on social media. Every minute a new post should be ready for us to read, just as we finish the one before. This, of course, is an impossible pace to maintain, even before considering how quickly we expect new information to be covered. We want to be notified of the latest events as soon as they occur, with detailed, analyzed accounts ready for viewing within seconds. The pressure this creates to churn out material as quickly as possible leaves almost no time to check information for accuracy. On top of this, untrustworthy sources purported to be “news” can be found everywhere on social media and passed off as true. The abundant presence of this fake news can breed distrust of credible sources, which is especially disheartening for those who are passionate about doing the job right.

The positives

More people can be reached in the moment than ever before. The wider audiences available via social media platforms increase the impact of news stories. We are all able to stay informed of current events through news alerts, internet searches, social media platforms, and the like. In addition, these days the news is easier not just to access but also to pass on. With a twitch of a thumb, readers can share links for major news stories to their followers in an instant. While this has escalated the number of false stories being shared, there’s good news. Many social media sites constantly evolve their algorithms and user tools to slow the spread of misinformation and combat fake news. Any success these platforms have in limiting the reach of false “news” stories will have a beneficial effect on the relationship between journalists and readers, reversing the damage done by the past proliferation of misinformation and building trust in news sources again.

The challenge: Keeping up with 24/7 virality  

Round the clock access to content leads to viral content, which in turn increase search traffic on social media and news sites alike. However, many journalists find handling the onslaught of information and presenting news about the latest hot topic for multiple platforms challenging. Given the sheer volume of information to be parsed through—with decisions made about accuracy and relevance before presenting it—this is no surprise. Nexis® for Media Professionals makes it easier to conduct research in the moment across a world-leading source universe, including a deep news archive. By narrowing the parameters of the search, journalists and media professionals can cut through the clutter and identify emerging trends sooner. Plus, it provides a fast, reliable, and convenient way to verify other data, freeing up more time to fact-check the next piece of information for a thorough, well-researched piece.