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News consumption and social media: a double-edged sword

As the internet began to grow, news corporations have made the shift towards broadcasting news online to generate more engagement. However, this caused a loss of credibility within the media.


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Amidst this change in the media landscape, the demand for more accessible news grew. Online newspapers began to feature new interactive elements, such as videos and user-generated content – e.g. commenting on news posts – allowing the user experience to become more engaging. The increased interaction results in a higher reach, and thus a larger audience.


Many news organisations have since shifted to social media platforms to create more interaction with their content.


However, social media becoming a channel for news has allowed misinformation and disinformation to spread. Australians have shifted their news consumption habits, with a large majority of young people moving to social media platforms to get their news fix. 


A study conducted by the Australian Media and Communication Authority (ACMA) in 2023 regarding news consumption found that 46 per cent of people from the ages of 18 to 24 nominated social media as their main source of news.


The University of Canberra also found that TikTok and Instagram have “continue[d] to grow in popularity with Gen Z” as forms of news consumption. According to Professor Park of the University of Canberra, “users pay more attention to news from ordinary people and social media influencers”, particularly on TikTok


Journalists in the modern age have begun to source their information from social media, with growing pressure to be the first on the scene to report news issues.  


7 News has fallen prey to the social media rumour mill, inaccurately reporting and assuming that the perpetrator of the Bondi Junction stabbing was university student Benjamin Cohen. This misinformation was sourced from accounts on X (formerly known as Twitter).


The Swanston Gazette reached out to Seven Network for a comment, but they did not respond.


The effects of misinformation and disinformation have become particularly apparent in the last few years, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic. 


RMIT Lecturer in Journalism Gordon Farrer commented on the ability of incorrect information to spread quickly, an ability “turbo-charged by COVID”. For news corporations to remain competitive, they rely on “clicks to gain revenue”, and for people to click on certain articles, there came a significant change in the way journalists were reporting.

“The strategies to create disinformation [are] based on emotion, to grab people’s attention and get them to be angry and fearful,” said Gordon Farrer in an interview with the Swanston Gazette.


“Emotions are what guide our behaviours and what we believe.”


Clickbait is a product of modern day social media, which has been utilised to increase the revenue of organisations. News companies weaponised this practice by posting false information within their headlines in order to generate more income and ad revenue.


The need for news organisations to adapt to the changing media landscape also stems from there being a “certain kind of pressure” on the journalism industry by the internet, and the fact that people are not willing “to pay for their news” anymore.


The rise of social media journalism has altered the way news is being reported and consumed, impacting the speed and reach of information, as well as challenging traditional modes of journalism.


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