By Erin Gray
Studies show that many millennials get their news from Facebook or other social media platforms before getting news from the paper or from the local television station.
Back in the day when my parents were young adults, they did not have cell phones (or the ones that they did have certainly were not any sort of newsfeed or search engine) but they had the morning paper and the morning television news. Old movies would often portray parents back in the day sitting at the breakfast table with the morning newspaper, coffee and doughnut.
Times have changed, and technology has changed. Now, the common thing for millennials to do in the morning is to check their cell phones –first for notifications that pertain to the individual like texts, likes, retweets, inboxes and emails. Then, young people commonly pull up their twitter or Facebook newsfeed where they may see that –“Oh, Flint is having some sort of water crisis, and they say it is all Snyder’s fault! I wonder what that is about.” They will click on it, skim the article for a second and close out to view the rest of the feed.
As times change, the methods of reporting change with it. Haylee Podrasky, web content producer of Fox 47 in Lansing says that, “Facebook and social media in general have changed the way journalists report the news. They have to be tech-savvy and into the latest trends to make sure they are reaching their readers who have gone digital.”
The latest trend is getting news stories read and shared on social media. A lot of news articles are now found posted on Facebook and Twitter feeds, where people can be intrigued by a catchy title and enticed to click on the article for more. Creating a misleading or embellished title for the purpose of gaining more clicks is called click-bait. Sometimes there are credible sources on a person’s newsfeed, such as The New York Times and sometimes there are fake news sources that look something like ‘L1vetoYou.com,’ for example, in which you might not want to trust.
“Putting (stories) on Facebook or Twitter speeds the process of getting misinformation out there because people won’t have to be …waiting for the morning newspaper or the news on the hour,” said Michigan State University associate professor of journalism, Eric Freedman.
News content on the web versus news content in the paper vary in a way that web content has to try harder to keep a reader’s attention more than print paper does. Since more people are switching to the web for news, the battle no longer lies between just print and web –there is now an additional competition between desktop and mobile. As Freedman said, misinformation can spread far and fast with social media. When millennials and even some older generations look on social media or the web for news updates throughout the day, it puts a pressure on journalists to get breaking news out there first. The idea of accuracy is falling in between the cracks a little but because of this race to get the clicks first.
The State of the News Media study suggests that newspaper revenue have declined 4% in the past year and that for the top 50 news sites, desktop views last longer than mobile views. Click bait may have something to do with these results. News publications know that people scroll on their phones and click the things that look interesting or that are shocking. In order to get attention and clicks from Facebook and Twitter users, the article has to have a title that will cause people to go, “WHATTTT,” and want to find out more. If some publications put out a headline saying, “Snyder purposefully poisoned Flint’s children,” that is a dramatic accusation. It will get people to click on the article to see the facts and when they begin to read it, they will see that the case was not that black and white and the title was just to grab attention and to gain clicks. Sometimes, people do not even read the full article and only read the overdramatic headline and draw conclusions from there. If every publication shared a story on Facebook saying that Snyder is a child killer, and not many people bothered to click on the article, it creates a false perception or association for viewers. I think the idea of embellished headlines or click-bait is dangerous in the field of journalism for the future.