In the 1940s, families gathered around the radio to hear the nightly news. Print newspapers gave way to news websites decades later. Now, according to Pew’s State of the News Media 2013 report, 15 percent of American adults and almost a quarter of those in their late teens and twenties are learning about everything from pop culture and sports happenings to major world events through social networks.
The spread and consumption of news on social media sites is fueled by the proliferation of people logging on with their mobile devices. The recent boom of 4G LTE devices and network coverage lets people read breaking news and share information with their friends and followers as events unfold. Those people in turn spread news, and sometimes rumors, rapidly.
The result is the dissemination of more information with a shorter period of time for vetting. Outlets sometimes convert their homepage into an aggregator of these tweets, National Geographic reports. In the rush to be first to break news, TV stations and newspapers pounce on information and try to verify it simultaneously.
The open nature of social media is both a boon for news sharing and a potential challenge. As science writer James Gleick told CNN, “There’s never been such pressure to speak before one knows.” Gleick, who has authored two books on speed and data in society, claims that the desire to gather and put forth news is now global and instantaneous. From autocorrect errors and careless typos to the rush to be the first, misinformation can find a foothold in the early period of a major news story.
NPR editor Andy Carvin believes, however, that separating facts from fiction is an essential part of the “news as a process” approach, GigaOM reports. He reports real-time events on Twitter with the intent of creating a crowdsourced newsroom, where he as a journalist shares information from different sources and relies on his followers “to act as editors and sources, fact-checking and verifying and also distributing the news that he was curating.”
Ultimately, in social media users have the final word on where they get their news, determining the news outlets, journalists and other news sources they follow and the information they trust.