Where are you reading these words I wonder? Most likely, given the perpetuity of ‘tinternet, you are reading on the Costaconnected website, via your computer, tablet or mobile device.
Perhaps you are right now reading actual words on the pages of your local Costa News, getting newsprint on your fingers and wrestling the unstapled pages, as you flick through in search of local news and information – maybe doing things you simply cannot do online, like circling a classified ad with a biro, tearing out an interesting column about how news media has changed, and pinning it to a physical corkboard in your kitchen.
But if this is the case your numbers are dwindling year on year, as the way we consume news and information changes to reflect the changing technological environment.
Think about the breaking news of years gone by, the iconic events that we all remember where we were when we heard… Princess Diana, the Twin Towers. However you heard the initial report, the default reaction of us all was to get in front of traditional broadcast media as soon as possible: to gather around the TV or radio. Get the truth from the BBC, to confirm the rumours and provide authoritative and reasonably real-time coverage of events as they unfolded.
Compare this to more recent events: the London riots, ISIS atrocities. Earth-shattering events like the announcement of a new presenter for a laddish TV programme. Where did you go to confirm the rumours, understand the story and keep up with breaking events? Online of course. Maybe to the same providers you grew up with – BBC, CNN and so on.
But their hovering helicopters seemed strangely distant and removed from the events unfolding on the ground – so increasingly we also look to first-hand accounts from people in the thick of it, on Twitter and Instagram, sharing what they saw and heard, without censor or delay. A democratising of news and information, that challenges oppressive regimes to crack down and control. this sharing goes on wherever traditional news media is gagged and displaced – we should be more grateful to the pioneering micro-broadcasters who often take great personal risk in order to get the word out fast and directly about what is really going on for them.
Also of course without context, curation or validation – so learning to sift through the hyperbole, gossip and agendas is all a part of it. And I know I still turn to the sources I trust to make sense of complicated geopolitical events,.. But I will read about it on the Indie or Guardian website, not on a piece of inky paper. And I will expect that analysis to be appearing on their homepage within hours.
If it’s a complex situation that is continuing to unfold, I will expect them to have a senior journalist live-blogging it in real-time, updating every few moments not just with the facts of what is going on (which will have to be 100% validated and confirmed of course because this is the authority of their brand as a source of genuine news), but I will also require them to explain it to me effectively. To relate it to the bigger picture, to pull in highly-informed specialist correspondents to comment on how the on-going events affect other situations and what the implications might be for whatever concerns us most.
Because the world is a complicated and interdependent place now more than ever, and for an average person to understand what is going on in Syria, with the Greek economy, the race for the White House or how a space probe hitches a ride on a comet, well there is just too much to take in. We need experts to interpret and extrapolate for us, share their opinions about the facts as well as just the facts. So simply keeping up with on-going occurrences in their spheres of influence must be more than a full-time job, long before they are hauled out of bed to live-blog an unexpected crisis.
For this reason I salute the newsgatherers of 2015 to whom we turn for the meticulously-researched back-stories which go beyond the tweets, and let us dip in and out: We have the choice now as consumers of news media to alternate between skimming the surface of live news as it unfolds, to clicking through to informed understanding of story-behind-the-story. For example, an excellent report on Forbes last week about the Philae lander and how it need not have powered down for months at all, had the political will been there to use a different kind of power supply.
And whilst commentators rightly celebrate the grass-roots stream of content which brings us to the heart of events as they happen from riots and revolutions to celebrity gossip, I contend that there will always be a place for old-school journalistic craft skills. Breaking a story, scooping a lead and telling us what happened may be a lot less important than it once was. But helping us all to understand WHY something happened and what the consequences might be for us all, that is a skill which no search algorithm, hashtag or trending newsfeed will ever replace.
Costa Connected, for Costa Blanca News, June 26th 2015
Casslar Consulting SL