Reading between the lines of the news in a digital age

The media has always been used as a mouthpiece for propaganda, and we too often are given only selected parts of a story. In the digital age, with the wide availability of so many forms of media, we are privileged to be able to easily access the wider issues – and the other side of the story.

When I was growing up, we had four TV channels. The news was on at set times, and your family would read a particular newspaper. You could get extra news from the radio, and Ceefax or Teletext, if your TV had the capability.

Of course, people read between the lines of the newspapers, and questioned what they heard on the news, but getting more information was challenging.

The digital age has transformed how we digest news and current events: it puts us in control of what we read, watch and listen to, and when.

Alternative perspectives on a story are available literally at people’s fingertips on smartphones, tablets and computers. We are able to compare views from the online versions of newspapers, chat with people from all over the world on social media, and discover new opinions on blogs. If we so choose, we can sit in front of 24 hour news to watch a story unfold and develop.

A pertinent recent example of using digital media to gain a perspective on all sides of a story is yesterday’s announcement of new NICE guidelines for birth. Many headlines suggested that home is the safest place for women to give birth, with the implication that there was only one ‘right’ place and way to give birth. Such a view is very unhelpful for many women. Of course, there is far more to the guidelines, and it was fascinating yesterday to watch debates unfold.

On Twitter, women shared their own very different experiences of birth – some in hospital, some at home, some in midwife-led units. Some went to plan, others needed interventions. Most births had happy outcomes, but others ended tragically with the death of a baby. Tweeters shared the angle pursued by the news and daytime programmes, saving me the trouble of putting the telly on. Bloggers articulated their views eloquently in their posts, discussing the guidelines in the context of their own birth experiences.

It is wonderful to be a part of such open and honest dialogue, not just about this topic, but so many important issues too.

However, we must always be mindful of respect and boundaries when sharing news on digital media: 24 hour news is notorious for being too quick to report before all facts are confirmed; libellous allegations are posted on social media and spread like wildfire; graphic images of accident victims are shared; terrorists exploit social media to share their despicable videos of hostages’ murders.

Respect and boundaries on social media was discussed on Twitter earlier this afternoon in relation to the tragic deaths of Charlotte Bevan and her baby daughter Zaani. I send my deepest condolences to Charlotte’s family.

The group of us who had been tweeting realised we needed to take a step back and balance our sadness over their deaths and our desire to work together to do something to help and support others, with respect for Charlotte’s grieving family. It can be too easy to slip from expressing about a tragic situation on social media to speculating what might have happened, which is unhelpful and disrespectful to the devastated, grieving family.

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For all the potential we have to be an active participant with digital media, there will always be those who digest information passively. Those who take sensationalist headlines (typically from the good old Daily Mail) at face value. Those who share on Facebook the emotive posts by Britain First without pausing to think of the politics and tactics that are behind them.

You cannot always believe everything you read, and it is the sensationalist headlines that do the most damage to society: generating fear of crime, creating health worries with no foundation of evidence; inciting xenophobia and racism with unsubstantiated tales of immigrants stealing jobs and taking benefits. I find this apathy, and lack of reflection and contemplation about the facts behind the headlines exasperating, saddening, and at worst – scary.

On the lighter side, though, some tabloids’ finger in the air headlines can be amusing – guess what, everyone, winter is forecast to be cold! Maybe.

We should always take the time to question what we hear and what we read, taking advantage of all the tools we now have at our disposal to read between the lines of the news in this digital age.

 

Linking up with Mum Turned Mom, based on the prompt “I read the news today.”

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19 thoughts on “Reading between the lines of the news in a digital age

  1. Jenny @ Let's Talk Mommy says:

    I think you are so right and so many turn a blind eye or take it for fact. Each station in America swings one way or the other so it’s bias news. We are bad for that back home. Not sure if england is the same but I assume it’s similar. Great post. Thanks for linking up to Share With Me Happy Holidays! #sharewithme

    Like

  2. Victoria Welton says:

    This post really made me think. I have to say that I miss the days when we didn’t have full access to everything all the time – life is so stressful and overwhelming and I do partly blame this reason! Thank you for linking to #PoCoLo 🙂 x

    Like

    • Leigh Kendall says:

      Yes, it was far easier to switch off in the old days! I think we’ve become so used to being able to access everything all the time it’s become normal, but it’s probably not healthy. Thanks for commenting! xx

      Like

  3. maddy@writingbubble says:

    This is a very well written and thoughtful post. I agree with you wholeheartedly. I find it scary how easily people are manipulated – I have FB friends who have shared Britain First posts without realising who they are and what they represent. And I’m not immune from taking things at face value either even though I try to keep my eyes open! The truth is out there… but where? #theprompt

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    • Leigh Kendall says:

      I think we’ve all probably taken things at face value at some point, I know I have, the important thing is to pause and think ‘hang on…!’ Hmm it seems like the X Files – and I think it’s probably a mystery even Mulder and Scully wouldn’t be able to solve. Thanks so much for reading and commenting! xxx

      Like

  4. Sara (@mumturnedmom) says:

    I completely agree with everything you’ve said Leigh, this is a very well considered and thoughtful post. I comment on the danger of spin, manipulation and misrepresentation in my post, and I have to admit I do avoid much of the news now, especially heartbreaking stories like the one you mention. We all need to be careful of our contribution to the pot of conflicting ideas/opinions/comments, making sure we understand the facts before we speak. Thank you so much for sharing with #ThePrompt x

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    • Leigh Kendall says:

      I haven’t read your post yet Sara, I will do soon – I’m interested to see what your perspective is. The news really can be utterly heartbreaking. I agree, we need to be mindful of the impact of our comments and speculation on current affairs, and especially when it concerns personal tragedy xxx

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  5. Coombe Mill says:

    This is so very true, each person, broadcaster and company sees the world from a different perspective and taking everything you see and hear from one place in this day and age is just a silly thought. I often now keep up with current news through social media as people post their opinions on what’s happening, however I’m always careful not to reply until I see the bigger picture. #PoCoLo

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    • Leigh Kendall says:

      Absolutely – every outlet has their own agenda. I take a lot of my news from social media too, it’s interesting to read different people’s views and opinions, but definitely wise to not get involved especially with a breaking story until the bigger picture is evident. Thanks for commenting xxx

      Like

  6. mummyshambles says:

    Great post.
    “When I was growing up, we had four TV channels”
    That’s one more than I had. 😉
    It was with a very heavy heart that I read about the poor mother and her baby. I haven’t looked at peoples comments but I can well imagine that some are extremely judgmental. None of us can know what was going through her mind. Who are we to judge anyway? It’s a tragedy and my heart goes out to her family. x

    Like

    • Leigh Kendall says:

      I was quite disgusted by some comments, so had to stop looking. What is it with people that they feel they can so openly cast judgement on someone without knowing full facts? Grrr. It’s so heartbreaking, such a tragic situation. Thanks for commenting xxx

      Like

      • mummyshambles says:

        Unfortunately, it happens too often – people standing in judgement of others. We should be showing people the compassion that we would like for ourselves. People should really think before they hit the submit button.
        You’re welcome, lovely Xx

        Like

  7. Tim says:

    Wise words. Social media and the rise of citizen journalism has a wonderful, democratising effect on the way we interact with and sometimes even create the news. But it is also a double-edged sword. It is all too easy to misinterpret or misreport things – whether inadvertently or maliciously – or to simply put two and two together to make 549. There is a reason why traditional news media apply a rule of not reporting a breaking story until it has been corroborated by two independent and trustworthy sources – and why the danger of relying on Twitter for breaking news is, well, dangerous.

    Funnily enough, I’m a big fan of Aaron Sorkin’s (The West Wing, The Social Network) The Newsroom, a series that tackles this very issue frequently. It’s a little heavy-handed, coming down firmly on the side of social media haters, but there are some salutary lessons in amongst the preaching.

    For me, the biggest lesson I’ve learned in reading, sharing and writing via social media is that it only takes a few seconds to send a tweet or share an update, but it’s worth taking a few seconds more to consider whether what we’re posting should be treated with a grain of suspicion first as to its reliability.

    *Climbs off soapbox*

    Liked by 1 person

    • Leigh Kendall says:

      I’m all for standing on soapboxes, Tim! I like the sound of the Newsroom, I’ll have to check it out. Completely agree that social media is a double-edged sword – for all the positive engagement, support and information sharing there is possibly an equal amount of misinformation, whether as you say, it is shared maliciously or innocently. It’s a reminder to pause before jumping in on social media. Thanks for commenting! x

      Like

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