The Internet has brought around-the-clock news coverage into our homes along with twenty-four hour coverage of less crucial, more tantalizing fare in this information age. These days, the line between news and gossip is becoming increasingly blurred, particularly by the media. What constitutes news and what is gossip? The definitions don’t really make it clear, after all what is “news” to one person may seem like mere idle gossip to the next. Take a look at these definitions decide for yourself:
News: New information about specific and timely events relevant to the general public, or a program devoted to conveying such news to the public.
Gossip: Casual or idle talk about others, usually without foundation and negative in nature. In today’s world, gossip is often broadcast via the media to the general public.
There is plenty of news that is “negative in nature,” but that doesn’t automatically make it gossip. Of course, the news does have to be properly substantiated. But the media these days is making it more and more difficult to differentiate between what is news and what is gossip. In fact, the media itself is an entity that seems to answer to no one and can report either news or gossip as it sees fit:
Media: Forms of mass communication that carry or store information. In this instance, mass communication forms such as television, newspaper and Internet that convey news or information to the public.
When someone who works for a media outlet says, “I’m with the press,” you don’t know if he is a reporter for a major media outlet such as NBC or he is reporting for a gossip rag like you usually find at the checkout counter of your local grocery store.
If you do a search for the name of a certain pop star/celebrity these days, literally millions of results will pop up. Some of them will be links to high quality, respectable news sites with what most people would consider newsworthy updates. Quite a few of them will be links to sites that are pure gossip. Not newsworthy, but certainly entertaining to many people.
In the case of a celebrity, it isn’t necessarily essential that you know whether you are getting the information from a reliable news source or a gossip site that hasn’t checked its sources or confirmed whether its facts are correct. But what about when you’re reading about a political candidate, someone in public office or Fortune 500 executive? Are you forming a judgment about the individual based on verified facts or vindictive gossip that is making the rounds of the Internet that started with a conversation overheard in a bar or club?
Whenever you’re reading a media story on the Internet, make sure that you are always aware of the source of the story. Look not only at the headline of the story but also at the name of the website itself. Is it a reputable news provider that you trust? If you read the story in a blog, is the blogger using unattributed quotes, or does he name the people he refers to so that the facts can be substantiated? Do the news stories you’re reading have reliable bylines from well-known reporters?
With the Internet making it easier for websites to blur the line between news and gossip or entertainment, consumers have more personal responsibility than ever to make sure they know and understand the source of their news and entertainment.
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