News Gathering Essay

An Analysis of News Gathering and Distribution

In this essay I will explore the changing way in which news is gathered for broadcast media as well as print based and online publication. In the past 10 years, the Internet has changed the face of journalism and news dramatically. Prior to websites being used as a tool for news distribution, the main outlets were television and newspapers. From 1932, the BBC programmed a news show with a presenter broadcasting news stories to viewers. After this, ITV, CNN, Channel 4, Sky News and other networks launched and established their own syndicated news programmes. [1]

The way broadcasters and other media outlets acquire story information has changed drastically in the past decade. From relying mostly on press releases and police reports, broadcast media now gather information and get their story leads from mediums like websites, social media such as Facebook, emails, telephone and so on. This has effectively reinvented the way the world produces and receives major pieces of news. Television broadcasters, such as BBC and ITV can get information from their viewers via email, telephone and even Twitter. “A consequence of these changes is that information providers … find themselves competing head-on in a new global online news environment.” [2]

In the previous years of news distribution, consumer demand for news in different formats was not as high as it is in today’s society, which is obviously due to the progression of technologies and civilisation moving into the digital era. Since the progression of technologies, especially the invention of smartphones and computer tablets, news is now distributed faster, seamlessly and more conveniently to an audience than the delivery of news from mainstream news outlets. Because of this, news outlets have had to develop new modes of staying up to date with the industry; most newspapers have advanced and established their online presence.

Newspaper circulation has been greatly affected by the shift in the way news is distributed; sales of printed publications have dramatically reduced in the last 5-10 years. This is primarily due to the rise in number of previous newspaper readers now using the Internet and online news sites/app equivalents to keep updated on major news stories, rather than having to venture to the shops to buy the regular newspaper. This is also because these papers are expanding to online content as well as keeping the printed versions; this is because information and stories can be updated much more easily and efficiently, giving more immediate information to their audiences. Readers can now download newspaper applications on their smartphones and iPad tablets for free, negating their need to buy a printed copy of a daily news publication. [1]

Social media is one of the biggest tools in journalism today. It is one of the first mediums, of both online and broadcasting, to break news stories and can be used as a way for journalists to hint for stories to expand on and publish on their online sites. Twitter is the main social networking site, which garners the most attention from not only the general public but also the journalists who work in the industry to publish links to stories or to break a news story. Not only that, but also when a major happening occurs anywhere in the world, Twitter is usually the first place that reports it. This is because of the popularity of the site and the ordinary day-to-day users can update their status simply and efficiently.

Before the Internet really took hold and social media became a leading form of news distribution, stories were first broken on the television news channels; mainly using sources like police press releases, a limited amount of information, enough to cover the basics of a story, given to the media outlets so that they can broadcast the details. The first to do so were usually the television channels like BBC News and ITV News. The immediacy of social media even beats mainstream media’s ability to get the news out first; possibly due to the amount of users of social networking sites, as Twitter now has more than 200 million active users, and Facebook has a staggering 1.11 billion users. [3]

Nowadays, news is still gathered from these types of sources, but they can also get celebrity exclusives from social media sites, and stories that would be published online in the view of public interest- for example, the Ryan Giggs super-injunction against being named in a cheating scandal was broken on Twitter by a user, as a result of taking legal action against the social networking site, the news spread faster because of Twitter’s colossal impact and influence on news distribution in society today. “A journalist shall do nothing which entails intrusion into anybody’s private life, grief or distress, subject to justification by overriding considerations of the public interest.” [4]

Processes of newsgathering in mainstream media has grown and developed substantially because of the impact of social media. Broadcasting networks now use the Internet as a vital tool to distribute news to an audience, but also for newsgathering. Social and mainstream outlets work hand in hand to distribute news in the most suitable manner; for today’s audience, that means the quickest form of news reporting, which is broadcast media via television and radio, and linking website articles to social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook. Newspapers come second to the outlets including technologies, although there is still a demand for printed publishing, the number of readers for local and national papers is rapidly declining.

Distributing web only news journalism is carried out in many ways, like search engines such as Google and Bing, but also, again, by social media sites- mainly Twitter. This is because websites and online articles get more hits when the stories are spread to a wider audience, which Twitter has, and can give the web-based outlets more exposure to many different audiences. Gathering news for website articles is a lot easier compared to mainstream media, primarily because the content does not have to follow strict guidelines like that of radio and television- which is mostly main, hard-hitting stories that have a great impact. Depending on what the online source is known for, the sites can get information and leads for articles from Twitter, word-of-mouth, other gossip sites, mainstream media, email and telephone, and so on.

In terms of gathering news for social media use, Twitter can get stories from everyday users, especially if it is a breaking news story, an example of this was the Boston Marathon bombings- users of the social networking site first heard of the devastating happening on Twitter, before it made it to website articles and mainstream media on news programmes. As well as giving original leads for news, news websites can post their stories to Twitter, and if they get lots of retweets, or the story becomes very popular with the social media users, the story can be featured on the “Discover” page on Twitter, which is a great source for users to catch up on news they might’ve missed.

The quality of news gathered and distributed by each of the examples: mainstream media, web only news, and social media, differs substantially from each other. Social media is the least reliable as most of the users of the networking sites are everyday people, so the “facts” stated there are merely opinions, unless news accounts such as BBC Breaking, CNN News, E! Online, and/or celebrities involved in a story either Tweet, post a comment or an article on their selected social media site with a story that is heavily backed by evidence from reliable sources. These news companies have to check this and have 100% fact before publishing statements, quotes, and facts and figures. [1]

Broadcast/mainstream media is the most factual based news outlet, mainly because the stories reported on news channels is the news that is mostly in view of the public interest. As well as this, news reports on television are usually very serious and as a result need the most research and hard evidence behind them before they are broken via the news networks. “On television there are current affairs slots that – sometimes, at least – tell us things we don’t already know.” More often than not, though, the most political stories are first covered by television and radio. This is because, using the BBC as an example, the broadcast networks have a higher level of journalism stories compared to glossy magazines and news websites- they even have specialist Parliament news channels that specifically cover news from the government, House of Commons, and House of Lords. [4]

Web only reporting is significantly less factual than broadcast media. News channels do have their website counterparts, but essentially, more web based news sites are more celebrity gossip based, and consequently rarely publish their stories, or focus them for that matter, on reports including evidence. More often than not, website based news outlets create made up stories, with made up sources, to create a scandalous buzz about a certain public figure- fundamentally giving themselves a lower quality of journalism compared to the mainstream media channels. [4]

Twitter is a source of news gathering and distribution in itself; a feature that journalists can use to their full advantage to acquire stories that would be in the public interest, as well as publishing their stories on the site so that it gets more hits and reaches a wider audience through sharing the story or “retweeting”. Nonetheless, a downside to Twitter as a form of delivering news is that, unless the information has come from a source that is recognised in journalism, or unless the information being reported is backed up by evidential support- which can include videos and photographs, it should not be taken as real news, except Twitter users can mistake the information as fact, when it could merely be a hoax.

Journalists need a broad range of skills in today’s media environment to report the news; being socially conscious of the networking sites to publish a story is key, as posting on Twitter could spread a story faster than any other media source today. A clear writing style needs to be made so that the public will find it easy to read a story. Knowing what an audience wants to read about, and aiming it to the right group of people on the right journalistic platform- if the journalist is writing for a fashion magazine, it will be published on the magazine website/blog, and a link would be posted to the official magazine Twitter account, as well as the journalist’s Twitter page.

A journalist must know when not to publish a story, for example, when a story could cause great offence to a certain group of people, or it includes a statement that is not true. When reporting the news on any media platform, a journalist must know how a story should be told based on the context of said story, this can be applicable to broadcast presenters and newspaper/online reporters. [4]

In conclusion, from the vast importance of networking sites as a tool for journalism, most news is gathered from the Internet, as opposed to previously being reliant on the police, press releases, the council, and other further techniques such as door-knocking and vox populi for stories. However, the most factual based form of news distribution is that of the mainstream media, including broadcast formats such as television and radio; the reason for this is, before broadcasting the news, solid evidence needs to be collected so that the report is fair and accurate.

The progression of gathering and distributing news will carry on because of the continuous creation of new formats of journalism. Newspapers will still have an audience of readers, even though the online market is growing exponentially. Websites, mainstream media outlets, and social media have a huge input in how breaking news and public interest stories are delivered and circulated to the general public. Journalism will continue to expand into the different mediums, and as a result, journalists have to accommodate them into their career skills; this will include web sense, photography and video knowledge, the ability to use social media, broadcasting, and creating a individual and recognisable writing style.

Harvard Referencing

1. Adrienne Russell (2011). Networked: A Contemporary History of News in Transition. Cambridge: Polity Press. P1-2.

2. OECD (2010). News in the Internet Age: New Trends in News Publishing. England: OECD Publishing. P14.

3. Craig Smith. (2013). (May 2013) How Many People Use the Top Social Media, Apps & Services?. Available: http://expandedramblings.com/index.php/resource-how-many-people-use-the-top-social-media/. Last accessed 8th May 2013.

4. Tony Harcup (2007). The Ethical Journalist. London: Sage Publications Ltd. P. 4-5 and P. 149-152.

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