Truth and Participatory Journalism

Column A: Truth, accuracy and authenticity

Column B: Participatory Journalism

Column C: Most of the information we spread online is quantifiably “bullshit”

As we blaze through our news feeds, we often take for granted the instant access we have to current events and other information. So much so that we often forget to ask ourselves if what we’re reading is actually true. According to and article written by Nathaniel Barr, most of the things that we read online are more concerned with grabbing our attention than spreading the truth. While it is possible that misinformation can exist within official news publications, most of it is created and reproduced by the citizens through our own adopted methods of journalism.
 
Participatory journalism (or citizen journalism) is an interesting example of how misinformation can spread. It is something that is changing the way in which news companies approach reporting stories. Not only does it enable news to get out instantly and shared through social media, it can also provide inside knowledge or direct observations and well as be used collaboratively with other citizens and news companies. However, there are a lot of questions about truth, accuracy and authenticity that come into play when we think about the potential problems that can exist in participatory journalism. While it is now made possible to get news as the events unfold, we are still both withheld and presented several unverified facts and we are also not guaranteed its accuracy. Even though we may think that we are getting a more personal view through a citizen’s perspective, there is a possibility that there is a personal agenda attached to it and what you’re reading is profound sounding bullshit. 
 
According to Nicholas Carr, the internet is transforming us, who engage with news on the internet, into “skimmers”. We would rather skim through articles or other people’s arguments looking for a quick answer than actually engaging with the topic and thinking critically about it. We often fall victim to sensational news and clickbait titles without thinking about how the things that we read represent the ‘truth’ or if it is backed up with facts. This happens based on our emotional response when we first came across the information. We can’t necessarily separate ourselves from our emotions, but to what extent should we let our emotions inform our reception of stories and potential bullshit around us? 
 
When looking at the products that come out of participatory journalism, perhaps we should be more skeptical about the information we’re reading compared to stories released from official publications and news sources. Participatory journalism comes with the notion that just about anyone can report news and stories through their own technological means. But with that, it suggests that they may not be bound to the same ethical code as the official news companies would. Without these bounds, citizen journalists are probably more subject to their own biases and opinions since they are not held accountable to specific code of ethics and thus allowing room for spreading skewed and misleading information. The Internet is free game; you can post just about anything.

But to an extent, I believe that some degree of ‘truth’ can be found in citizen journalism even in the most personal and biased stories. Sometimes those biases and sensational writing can provide insight into the state of opinion and why does this information exist in the first place.

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