Tuesday, December 6, 2011

On the obsolescence of news

Today I want to write down some considerations about what happened some days ago in Spain to an article from the online newspaper "El Pais".
In a few hours an article dated 2005 on pseudo-homophobic declarations from a Spanish conservative senator ranked to the top of the most read online news ever for that newspaper.

How did that happen? General elections on 20th of November 2011 saw the conservatives win by absolute majority, so it's likely that indignant opponents started sharing the news either reading just the headline, or maybe passing through the article without checking the date of publication.

So, after some hours, the online edition of the newspaper highlighted just below the original headline that the article was dated 2005 and that networks virality had just ranked it to the top.

I read some opinions from readers about what had happened, in Spanish here for who's interested. I read a bit of everything, very different opinions one from another and maybe I would expect a more objective analysis (although a blog comments section is probably not the most propitious place for that).

Anyway, people's observations apart, I think that this is quite interesting and worth spending some reflections.

I read this is not the first time an event like this takes place, therefore this makes me think that in terms of innovation in communications and media we have moved a big step forward in these last few years, but I think there is something missing when considering organization and structure of news both in content and cronology.

Readers' opinions are very different, and I cannot but think they are often right, in a certain way.
I don't fell that rejecting old news for the mere fact of being old is the proper thing to do. I mean, old news don't come with freshness and immediate interest, but that's not a reason why they should not be considered information.
And old information should be part of anyone's cultural wealth at the time of extrapolating coherent opinions.

A personal opinion should be based on information integrity, development and evolution. I think this is very reasonable, but I don't think that amplifying and highlighting specific events cut off from a more detailed context is good.
Similarly, it would be an error to consider an information dissociated from backgrounds and consequences. This is what I call manipulation. The worst thing is that virality of manipulation reaches nowadays enormous proportions through the Internet channel.

Who's responsible for that? Nobody. Or everybody; that's pretty the same. With tools currently available, this is the perception of the world we are living. Asserting that current media manipulate news on purpose and in any situation it's kind of a dumb generalization.
Similarly, declaring that social networks' users that are used to share news (often emotionally) aim to manipulate reality, it's far too simplistic.

By the way, anyone should be responsible for anything is provoked by a simple click. On the other side, media and social networks will have to concentrate efforts towards improving presentation and aggregation of contents.

What's clear is that a better comprehension of our world is subordinated to both having good critical education and to a bold typeface date of publication beside any news.