Media Credibility & Crisis Reporting
SATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM -- Curiosity is a human nature and hence people turn to different sources of information to satisfy their hunger. As the centuries pass by, more and more information is being available, whether through word of mouth, traditional media, or through mainstream digital media. Open data is the new source of information that provides people with the opportunity to have access to a wide network of knowledge, which they can use to their advantage. Having easy access to all this knowledge empowers citizens to be aware of their surroundings, be critical thinkers and civic developers, and be able to make sound and clever decisions about their life and community. In terms of civic engagement, open data helps highlight issues and problems which matter to the people of a community and brings them into the public light for consideration. It also facilitates finding solutions to these problems by being creative, critical developers and applying innovative thinking to already existing data.
However this is not the case all the time. First and foremost, data is not always available in its filtered form and most data out there is raw. Not all information is credible and originates from a reliable source. Hence, people fall into the trap of being mislead, which prevents them from making critical analysis and finding solutions to their community‟s problems. People are not always protected from the fake information and usually rely on it without verifying it.
Other times, there is too much information out there that people do not know which information to take and which to discard. An example of this would be the case of Wikileaks, where a vast amount of governmental information that was considered private, was leaked for the public. (Wikileaks, 2010) People and media were exposed to this vast amount in a short time and they had no idea how to process it. In order to evaluate such raw data and information, people need to be more media literate.
EFFECT ON MEDIA’s CREDIBILITY DURING CRISIS
Credibility of media and the information it releases, poses a major question to the people when there is an open data of information out there. To what extent is the information out there true? To what extent do media illiterate people get affected by false information out there? With this fast digital moving age and with the time constraints that are present on getting the information out, people are turning towards the broadcast media outlets and depending on them for their news information and for their daily updates about their communities and their world around them. If this information has the potential of being false, then imagine all the decisions taken on the basis of this and the effect on these people. News media is considered one of the most reliable sources of information, especially when it comes to the events that affect the life of an individual. Political events, economic events, and social events often shape a person‟s life, hence it is important to have access to the most accurate and true information. Since their advent, news agencies and publishing houses around the world have been trying to provide a factual account of the events that happen in a community and that have the power to affect a citizen‟s life. With the initiation of internet as a tool to reach a bigger group of people, by the news outlets, an effort was being made to bring the same level of accuracy to this new medium.
However, as the speed and spread of internet increased, so did the consumption of news by the public. Social media became another tool to dispense and consume this valuable information to and by the general population. Hence, the regulation of the information that was being made public and that was accessible to a large group of people became weak. As citizens became journalists, the practice of verifying each and every fact that goes online, lost its importance. Twitter, Facebook, Reddit and blogs became sources of information, not only for the public but also for the mainstream media. Mainstream media and social media can often be seen interacting with each other to dispel all this information around the world in real time.
With all this information presented, it leads us to question the credibility of the information and news presented to us by the media. If a disaster happens or a crisis breakouts and information is flowing
from different directions continuously and un- relentlessly, it is hard to monitor the truthfulness of information and hence its credibility is jeopardized. As a result, this false information is internalized by
the citizens and taken as the truth which might lead to unintended reactions.
On April 15, 2013 two bombs exploded during Boston marathon and the first photo was uploaded on Facebook within a couple of minutes resulting in 24 hours of media frenzy where social and mainstream media fed off each other causing every speculation and rumour about suspects / bombing to be treated as legitimate news. (The Guardian, 2013)
Similarly, on April 24, 2013 a tweet from Associated Press (AP) twitter account mentioning an attack on White House and president Obama being injured was published. This tweet got re-tweeted 6000 times within a few minutes and turned out to be a hoax later on. This had negative implications on the citizens and on the US stock market. The citizens were in a panic mode and hence AP lost the people‟s credibility to it. Readers were asked not to believe any news or information that is tweeted for at least a couple of days and until further notice. As for the US stock market, the Dow Jones dropped down by about 143 points. Once the information was cleared it gained its previous status back. (Hootsuite, 2013)
Each case had its own ramifications and severely impacted the lives‟ of the public and economy of the country. In these two cases, false information was presented to the public from news sources that were considered to be credible sources. Negative consequences of these news affected the lives of citizens and endangered their safety. This poses the argument of what people must do in order to verify the information presented and be able to better protect themselves.
This raises the question, how much do we trust the birds to bring us the right information?
MEDIA ANALYSES ITSELF AFTER BOSTON BOMBING
On 15 April 2013, two bombs went off, just as the Boston Marathon was winding down. Immediately reports about the bomb started appearing on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. What followed was media frenzy as social media and mainstream media fed news off each other. News about suspects and their arrests spread as soon as it broke on social media site Reddit and was soon picked up by Mainstream media like CNN and The New York Post but turned about to be rumours and false information.
Thus in the event of a crisis, when news, rumours and false information was flowing incessantly and rapidly, it was hard to sift through it and decide what speculation was and what hard facts were.
After bombings, social media informs (and misinforms)
This is an analysis on the role of social media during Boston bombing where it sheds light on the inappropriateness of the news information. This article successfully presents the case and some of the implications that happened. However, it does not fully presents the negative implication that it had on people‟s lives and how it affected them or give a live example of the investigations that took place.
Social Media Vigilantes Cloud Boston Bombing Investigation
This is an analysis of social media and its effect on the coverage of the Boston bombing. This analysis shows how the wrong rumours actually affected the lives of others. NPR does a good job in giving a sample example of how the news information affected the investigations and sheds light on how this has affected the lives of innocent people.
WATCH: Jon Stewart slams CNN's Boston bombing coverage
This is a video of Jon Stewart‟s criticism of CNN for Boston bombing coverage. He uses a satirical approach to inform the people of the negative outcomes the information had on the citizens and
investigation procedures. The humour type of form that he uses is a good eye catching element that attracts the people to watch the show and be informed of the news updates where awareness on a
certain issue is raised in a fun and humorous form.
Boston 'witch hunt' on social media sites – and a bad week for the old guard
This is the Guardian‟s analysis of the coverage of Boston bombing one week after the event. The Guardian does a good job in shedding light on the negative consequences that affected people‟s life and gives a live example of how the info on Reddit has fuelled a “witch hunt” trying to discover the suspects and how this has affected the lives of innocent citizens where their safety was endangered.
SOCIAL MEDIA AND ECONOMY
AP Twitter Hoax
On 24 April, 2013 a tweet by Associated Press‟s twitter account was published that said ‘Breaking: Two explosion in The White House and Barack Obama is injured.’ The tweet got re-tweeted 6000 times in 2 minutes but as said to be a hoax after AP released a statement saying that their twitter account had been hacked. The tweet had strong repercussions on the US economy as well as the international economy.
Twitter Speaks, Markets Listen and Fear Rise
This article discusses how social media affects the Market and the economy. This accurately covers the effects on the market and drop in stock prices. It does not mention the hoax itself but the negative impact of the hoax and correctly presents the issue as is.
AP Hack Illustrates Real Consequences of Poor Social Media Security
This shows how insecure and vulnerable is the social media. This blog article does a great job in first discussing the issue in brief about the hoax and then presenting the negative consequences that it had on the US market. It goes further to also use this as an example to other brands and how false information on social media can have fatal results.
SEC, FBI probe fake tweet that rocked stocks
This article shows how social media can be used for a negative effect. It presents the negative consequences in a cohesive manner form. However, it has mentioned that the Syrian Electronic army were behind the hoax and failed to mention the proof they had or the source of information to attain better credibility.
The power of one wrong tweet