The Love-Hate Relationship Between the Internet and Storytelling
Why accessibility does not guarantee authenticity
Column A: Trust, authenticity, and accuracy
Column B: Mobile Phones
There’s no doubt that in this day and age, the internet has taken over. It has become so ingrained in our society and daily lives that we don’t even notice anymore. Inevitably, the way in which we tell and hear stories has changed because of this, and journalism itself is ever-evolving. In their article, “The State of Storytelling in the Internet Age,” the Readthisthing team writes how “storytellers today have the best tools, the best distribution channels, and the largest audience in history.”
In other words, the public has more opportunities than ever to be involved in news stories, whether that may be just listening to them, or becoming a storyteller themselves. But with this modern way of storytelling, no matter what tools or channels are used by journalists and the public, the audience must also try to decipher what stories are accurate, authentic and trustworthy.
We can access information so quickly through technology, especially through our mobile phones, that we no longer have to wait for a radio report or go buy a newspaper to hear the latest story as we used to. Anything we want to know is literally available in our pocket, and the information is available in a matter of seconds. Yet this accessibility does not mean that the information is authentic. With the internet making it so easy to share for anyone and everyone, it also makes it very easy to share false or unreliable stories. Whether that is on Twitter, Wikipedia or a well-known news website, our access to news is so wide that, as the Readthisthing team says, the audience has become an “army of sleuths” that has never been more investigative, and for good reason.
This is a critical part of journalism today, as the audience is almost constantly looking to ensure that a story is authentic because of all the false and inaccurate stories that no one wants to be caught quoting. For this reason, you would think that different media organizations would be careful, yet you can still find tons of click bait articles and pure lies all over the internet.
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However, this pushes the audience to think more critically about the stories and information that are fed to us, which makes the world of journalism that much more engaging and exciting in my opinion. Social media that we normally use for posting fun pictures or commenting on the latest episode of a hit show can also be used to share important messages and draw awareness to social issues and events, providing information and knowledge to people who may have previously never engaged with these types of news stories.
This authentic side of the internet continues to be a critical part of the modern-day journalism world as more and more companies are catching on to the idea. Large corporations are finally catching on to the idea that the use of more accessible and personal approaches, including social media, reach a wider audience. New companies are also incorporating relevant news into their creative content, making it more attrative for an audience that otherwise may not be interested in those types of stories. None of this would be possible without the internet.
We may also be in what the Readthisthing team calls the “age of foolishness.” Fun, eye-catching articles may end up getting more views than articles about world issues, as the audience’s interests have shifted and with it, the format in which stories are told. Therefore the humour of a news story may push aside the question about its authenticity, illustrating another issue that is on the rise.
In general it may seem that as technology progresses and the public becomes more and more involved, for better or for worse, journalists and storytellers must work harder to be as authentic and accurate as possible and the audience must remember that just because your phone buzzes with an eye-catching news story, it could very well be a hoax. With increased accessibility comes increased responsibility, both for those who tell the stories and those who are listening.