Today, our generation is filled with media. Newspapers might not be what they once were, but journalism has taken flight in the inter-webs. Of course, there are pros and cons to online media and many different types of online media: smartphones, social media, the internet, and even television. One of the pros is having more information available more quickly to more people than ever before. It allows everyone to stay connected – even if they aren’t in the area.
There are downsides to online media, sadly. The bias of the media is one of them. That isn’t the big kicker, though. Over the past several years, our online media has turned into a click-bait culture. News sites will run rumors as headlines and present them as facts. That isn’t good journalism – that’s just being lazy. There have been countless examples over the past five years of this behavior that is irresponsible and lacks integrity. Buzzfeed’s Craig Silverman made the claim in an ABC News article that fake news has skyrocketed since Facebook has switched from human fact checkers to computer algorithms. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg also chimed in on the situation in the article denying the idea that Facebook is the problem, but he recognized that there was one in general: “The bottom line is: we take misinformation seriously . . . We take this responsibility seriously. We’ve made significant progress, but there is more work to be done.” I have no other knowledge of this specific situation, but clearly there is an abundance of room for improvement.
You know what? I get it. Sometimes it’s tough not to click on an article that has a juicy headline. We care a lot about certain things and want to stay up-to-date on anything related to them. For me, that would be sports and movies. For example, I listened to the most recent Batman-News podcast featuring Forbes writer, Mark Hughes, and their topic of conversation revolved around the status of Ben Affleck’s solo Batman film and rumors swirling about Justice League. One thing that stood out to me was that almost all of the news presented in the media beforehand was speculation and “reading between the lines” based off of a few of Affleck’s comments in an interview for his new film, Live By Night. Hughes debunked the rumor that Justice League is a mess because the film is still in the early stages of post-production, and no one has seen a rough cut of the film because there isn’t one yet. Hughes also put to bed the rumor that Affleck won’t direct his standalone Batman movie – because Affleck has publicly confirmed multiple times that he will direct it.
Hughes continued in the podcast to mention that online news sites don’t really care that much if they receive positive or negative comments. That sounds insane, right? Well, even if people are posting negative comments and saying bad things about it, that site is still getting more and more traffic and word spreads further and faster about that particular article – only benefitting the news site. That is why Hughes said online news sites prefer to write more negative articles than positive ones – they garner more traffic and make more money.
John Campea, Head of Programming and Senior Producer at Collider, ranted about this idea of bad journalism a few years back when it was reported that IMDB shut down a website that they own called Box Office Mojo. Once someone went to the Box Office Mojo site and realized that it brought them back to IMDB, people panicked and ran headlines about how IMDB shut down this site. The reality of the situation was that some site maintenance was happening, so the Box Office Mojo site re-directed people back to the main IMDB page. Campea also lashed out at the online film journalism community after pictures surfaced of Scoot McNairy on the Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice set wearing green CGI leggings. Almost immediately, online news sites began running headlines that Scoot McNairy was going to play the Flash. Obviously that didn’t happen, which further proved the ineptitude of those particular news outlets.
We live in a click-bait culture – no one will deny that. If there’s any new news about a sports team, book, movie, or concept that I like, I’ll probably read it. However, I won’t be sharing the negativity that an article will entail. I’m not going to give them more attention than they already have. Besides, we need more positive things in our world – more real news.