Where do you get your news from? (HLD 333)

19 Feb 2021

Oh my goodness, the kerfuffle that went down yesterday. Our beloved website leader, Mr FB, decided to preempt our Australian government poking their noses into what happens on this little FB website and decided to ban news sites from posting here.

Of course, technology and button clicking being what it is, a number of vital services and innocent bystanders got caught up in the ‘being banned from Facebook’ scenario, so it became bigger than big. At least as far as all the media outlets were concerned.

Governments are up in arms for a variety of reasons, but cynical me wonders whether any upcoming elections, and losing access to heaps of potential voters, might be one of their concerns.

But it got me thinking about what ‘news’, or what ‘important information’, do I glean from within the confines of social media?

I must be fairly unusual, because I’m on this Facebook caper to keep in contact with friends.

I’m not on it to find out about the weather. I’m not on it to find out the views of political parties on climate change. I’m not on it to find out which so called celebrity had plastic surgery.

Mind you, I’m also not on it to be presented with endless quizzes on ‘what my spirit animal’, “what colour represents me best”, and “how old will I be when I die”?

I’m also not here for in incessant advertising – whether it be for footwear with good arch support, underwear, baby clothes or comedy shows coming up soon in my local area which just so happens to be on the other side of the country, or candles.

But I’m aware that the business that runs the little website that I maintain contact with my friends on, needs to pay their bills, and they do so by charging a price for advertising. Got it. I can just skip over all the stuff I’m not interested in. Although those beach towels look interesting – maybe I’ll just click on the link and find out some more information about them.

I am here for finding out what my friends are up to, their opinions on things whether I agree with them or not, and also information from some special interest groups that have appeared in my feed, and quite frankly are very interesting.

Things I don’t click on to read more about, eventually disappear from my newsfeed on Facebook. If I express, whether verbally or by clicking a button, an interest in a particular area, I will be bombarded with advertising about that. Until I don’t click buttons and express interest in something else, when the advertising will change to the new topic.

I get it. I understand how it works.

I don’t get a lot of news media stuff appearing on my Facebook feed. Possibly because I don’t click on links for them, or ‘like’ stuff.

Don’t get me wrong – if there’s new information posted about the pandemic, or a bushfire, or a major traffic incident that could impact me or my family, I will read it. It’s handy that it appears in one place that I happen to be looking at anyway, but it isn’t the be-all-and-end—all of my news gathering sources.

I read the newspaper. I flick through the online news pages, although frankly they do seem to want to tell me the same story for six days in a row, and it’s often about some celebrity changing their diet or wearing a new outfit. I don’t click on those ones, but news web pages aren’t as smart as Facebook in working out what you actually want to look at.

I will sometimes watch the television news in the evening, if I can put up with the cross promotion of their network shows and subtle advertising of goods and services in the guise of a ‘general interest segment’.

I listen to the news on the radio, if I happen to be sitting in the car at the right time. Generally this is where I hear most about traffic conditions, which is highly appropriate.

But I read. A lot.

I don’t rely on a single source for my news gathering. In fact, I’m generally fairly sceptical about any ‘news report’, until I can back it up by reading something from a couple of different sources.

So does it bother me that Facebook are reacting to a proposal to make them pay for anything put out by a news media organisation? Possibly not as much as some people, but that’s ok.

I totally agree, that if your business is producing and disseminating ‘news’, you need to receive payment for your work. But, and this is a pet gripe of mine, I also believe that when news media produce quotes from bereaved families etc that were originally posted online, there needs to have credit back to whichever social media source they original came from. Do news media need to pay for this privilege also?

Yes – there is a big censorship scenario at play here, and discussion can definitely take place over things that Facebook DON’T censor or remove from their pages, but…

It doesn’t cost us to use this social media page. We don’t have to use this social media page. We use it because it’s convenient, mostly does what we want it to do, and we can ignore the parts of it that don’t interest us.

That’s news. Surely.

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