Journalism is being eroded by the internet–in some ways. In other ways it gets some help: More data faster. If you’re smart about your web sources, and pick them for established repute, you can get quality journalism on the internet. But there’s a huge erosion of quality in journalism that moves like an out of control forest fire on the web.
Twitter is one factor–I’ve written about its tendency to be not only superficial but just wrong a lot of the time, yet it’s consulted by real news sources.
Another factor is the New Yellow Journalism. It’s not only yellow it’s jaundiced, it’s sickly like a patient in the final stages of terminal hepatitis C. For some reason headlines are wildly deceptive on the internet–though the stories may be more or less factual. The competition for fast “hits” leads to exaggeration in headlines and in the stories, and a tendency to repeat the sensational before it’s fact checked.
The “if it looks like a professional site it’s valid” misperception by web surfers has led to people taking all kinds of absurd sources seriously–Alex Jones is just one example of a bad source that can look kind of superficially legit.
The erosion factor that currently bothers me most is advertising that is disguised as a news article. You have to look pretty hard to see that it’s sheer advertising. Usually they have a site like Men’s Life and health or Morning Money that sound like legit sites but the first one is making non factual claims about its steroid-style supplement, and the second is pretending to be like an online Forbes while it’s misquoting Buffett so it can sell some bad securities. At the bottom of the fake article it says,”Editor’s Note: As a service to our readers, we’ve arranged for you get a copy of Michael Robinson’s full research package including his book that details everything you need to know about this…” With a link to a sales pitch.
Fake articles are found in the print newspaper too–though they have, printed on them, a warning that it’s an advertisement, somewhere. The fake articles on the web are far harder to identify. Something about the web destroys every last shred of fair-dealing in some people…