Where Do You Get Your News?
Not too long ago I put up a post discussing the news, and more specifically who reports it. This post focussed primarily on television, and made little mention of the internet. Obviously, this discussion is not complete without talking about the impact of the internet, which has fundamentally changed how people get their news. It is no secret that many people now jump online to get information on important current events, rather than waiting to listen to the news. This has meant that people can look through and find the news that is important to them, rather than listening to the story which has be crafted for them by a news anchor. There is nobody forcing you to click on a specific story, and that makes getting information to people more difficult.
According to ebizmba.com (and I have no idea how scientific, or reputable this is) Yahoo News is the most visited news website in the United States. That is followed by CNN, MSNBC, Google News and the New York Times. There are a total of 15 sites on the list, which can be accessed here. So what makes these websites so popular and conversely, how do they present the news to viewers who visit their site?
For the most part, four of these top five websites are very similar. They all feature a story (or two or three) on their front page, which is larger in size and generally is seen upon arrival to the site. Of course, this is the top news of the moment, and clicking on the story to read more about it is very easy. It is quite likely that someone will click through to read about the main story. This would be similar to the first news story presented in a television broadcast. Each site then has a list of links to other important stories, but these generally do not have accompanying images (which often peak an individual’s interest in a story). Each also features tabs somewhere on their main page, where patrons can seek specific news on a topic or geographic area.
The exception to this is Google News, which simply displays the most popular news stories as displayed on other websites. Google News does not craft its own stories, but rather tells you which are most viewed by other people. I am not sure how I feel about Google News. Since they do not write their own stories, but gather news headlines from other sites, they are not attempting in any way to put forward a subtle (or direct) message. On the other hand, by showing you the most popular headlines, they are simply putting forth what is deemed to be important news, regardless of whether this is relevant news. It is easier for a person to miss a news story, simply because it does not show up in their aggregated list of headlines.
The one major benefit to news websites is how quickly they can report the news. Headlines can go up in minutes, and people can be informed of a story right away. It is also easier to update and add to a story once it has been posted, so it is generally assumed people are reading the most up to date and current information as soon as it becomes available. The same can not be said for television news, which rarely breaks into television shows, unless a story very significant.
I would argue that the internet has had a positive impact on news overall. However, one must always be skeptical of every story, no matter which site it is posted on. They are trying to do whatever they can to get you to visit their site and read their stories, and sometimes this comes at the expense of the true facts. By visiting more than one site for your news, it is easier to determine what is fact and what is fabrication, as each site will generally have the common facts, but present it in different ways. But unfortunately, we play right into their hands (myself included) and often read only the stories with the catchiest headline or flashiest pictures and thus give no incentive to change how news is reported.
My question for all of you is what site(s) do you visit to get your news? What makes you visit that site over others? Does it matter how websites present the news?