Digital Literacy

Their news, us news, me news: newspapers are old news

The speed at which news is classed as ‘new’ has changed. Newspapers simply can’t keep up with the pace of life that the current Internet age provides. The scope of news has changed dramatically too, especially with the concepts of Twitter and (as one example) BBC News ‘Have Your Say’ feature on web stories.

The speed at which news is classed as ‘new’ has changed. Newspapers simply can’t keep up with the pace of life that the current Internet age provides. The scope of news has changed dramatically too, especially with the concepts of Twitter and (as one example) BBC News ‘Have Your Say’ feature on web stories.

Their news

24 hour news has been around a long time. Never-ending streams of babbling, time-filling, and often generic news stories at a national or international level are provided on television channels. These channels sole purposes are to be there just incase something really bad (or very infrequently really good) takes place and the twenty minute slot it would normally have at 6pm just wouldn’t do it justice. From the TV, 24 hour news has gone onto the internet, providing more scope for stories that aren’t of ‘general interest’ and tap into specialist areas and separate groups of society. Take the BBC News website as an example, it breaks news down into international, UK, country, region, (some cities), topic areas, novelty, showbiz, children’s, weather (at multiple levels too) and more sports than you can shake a stick at (though not stick-shaking which is a shame as I’d imagine that would be a rather humorous sport to cover). Anyway, this segmentation is only possible through the web as its one of the only economically viable means of disseminating all the possible news stories available to all the possible interest groups out there quickly, regularly and effectively.

News stories spread across the internet so quickly that, what might feature in the early morning radio bulletin has been forwarded via email by lunchtime. By the time the 6pm evening news comes on, as much information as is available about that story has already been learnt by the audience. Is this shaping a perception that broadcast news ‘isn’t what it used to be’ inadvertently because of how the evening news just seems to be padding time with what we already know.

‘Their news’ is news decided for the public, editorially. Their news, is old, slow news.

Us news

User-generated news is also becoming more commonplace. Comments on stories published on the BBC News website often tell of own-experience (if not then certainly own opinion). This is news in a different form, it’s first person rather than third. What is interesting is that the arguments for and against user-generate content are the same:

  • Bias. A reasoned, balanced argument cannot be constructed, it is instead up to the contributing community to argue and balance themselves. However, a community self-balancing eliminates the risk of a politically influenced editorial policy of the news channel.
  • Subjectivity. News becomes centred on an individual’s perspective and opinions rather than pure delivery of facts. However, news is often about people. Too much objectivity creates desensitisation and forgets the human story.
  • Legalities. Who owns the news? Who is responsible for litigious or slanderous comments? Editors vet the published or broadcast media, and forum moderators vet user-generated media.

Aside from the arguments for or against, user-generated media is here to stay. Powered by cheap technology which facilitates users (the public) to have their own say, the cost of moderating is far less than producing news material in-house. It’s at a local level quite often, of interest to niche communities which means that the channel can target a wider audience with little extra cost, particularly through the internet.

‘Us news’ is collectively published. It’s news generated by and created about us, as a group or community.

Me news

News available via Twitter is more local than any service provided on TV or radio, its news about the people you know, rather than the strangers in your town or city. Twitter and other micro-blogging services (like Facebook Status) enable a news story to be exponentially dispersed worldwide. How else would it be possible for a small local USA community newspaper to have headlines about Susan Boyles, an average UK citizen who humblised three judges on an talent show by simply pushing air through her vocal chords. Twitter’s ‘re-tweet’ (RT) concept means that if something is seen as relevant, it spreads, fast. Twitter trends are fascinating to watch. Today was labelled #unfollowfriday as a way of pruning your Twitter following list. This very simple idea clicked in the minds of thousands of users. Twitterers re-tweeted and during the course of the day it worked its way up to the top ten topics being discussed. By tomorrow of course, it’ll be irrelevant and something new will become interesting.

Ideas and news being created, posted, shared and assessed for relevance is human filtering of information on a very fast and efficient scale. Though the Twitter community tends to be the net-generation, more people are signing up and finding that Twitter is reflecting more appropriately what’s happening in both the world and in the lives of people you know. Worldwide news is filtered across all users and collected in the trending pages. At the same time, your personal home collects the news from all your followed Twitterers. All the news stories though are short, with a single line representation of a news story. This is seemingly then far more efficient than watching a 6pm news bulletin with 5 or 6 stories each with 5 minutes of time allocated where perhaps only one story is relevant to you.

‘Me news’ is directly relevant to the individual. It’s immediate, current, fast, voyeuristic and egotistic, but most of all interesting.


Services like Twitter are more relevant to the 24 hour society than the 24 hour news channel. Web users don’t like reading trawls of text to find information, they want facts quickly so they can decide whether a story is worth looking at in more detail. The 24 hour society is non-stop, time for relaxing has reduced, and as people try to cram more into their lives, a quick way to keep up to date is essential.

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