Social media should not replace traditional news outlets

My first encounter with a news publication going under was in my hometown of Hollister, Calif.

In the year that I was there, the already small staff of four that ran the weekly publication was reduced to two because of lost funding. I understood more clearly later that the reason for this newspaper’s decline was because print publications are becoming a thing of the past.

Social media has become the replacement.

This disturbed me because the reality is that, though we may be evolving, we are subsequently dumbing ourselves down.

Social media should be spreading the news, not replacing it.

The popular opinion is that the world is developing, and this may be true – to an extent. We’re not developing so much as we’re just spending a ridiculous amount of time on social media. With the rise of Twitter and blogs in the western world, it feels as if news doesn’t need the journalist anymore.

However, we still do.

These new forms of social media have turned what was once a population of reliable news readers to addicts of social media. News hasn’t become bad, but the new forms have pushed readers to stay in a niche that doesn’t allow people to step out of their bubble. This keeps us ignorant to things outside of our comfort zone.

Take the recent uproar with TIME magazine in which many on the Internet found out that the U.S. December issue emphasized anxiety, while the rest of the world read a cover story about the second Egyptian revolution.

Why the censorship? Is it because as Americans we wish to only read about the wedding of Kim Kardashian?

This is a red flag.

In a study conducted from 2005 to 2009, the average newspaper circulation in North America was down 11 percent. But in Africa, average newspaper circulation was up by 30 percent, according to a study conducted by The Economist, in association with the World Association of Newspapers.

Let’s look at the San Francisco Chronicle that in 2010 suffered more than any other U.S. newspaper by losing 22.7 percent of its weekday sales, according to a report done by Audit Bureau of Circulations.

One of San Francisco’s most reliable and recognizable newspapers is dying because we chose to read the articles in our news feed or timeline, based on our interests.

Americans have reached a point of separation.

We can no longer be bothered with knowing about the rest of the world, or even identifying with one another.

The average Facebook user spends 15 hours and 33 minutes on Facebook per month, according to the website’s statistics.

Even more disturbing, a little more than 60 percent of users visit the 25 most popular and credible U.S. news websites only once a month.

Americans depend heavily on Facebook, with close to 50 percent using it as the main source of receiving information.

That means those who visit, say the New York Times online, only do so once a month. Yet a user would visit Facebook multiple times in one day. Arguably the Western world is hurting itself in the ways it seeks information.

Though social media can help spread news at a rapid rate, which is a positive aspect, they also have the tendency to keep the reader in their niche by not allowing them to seek the larger picture.

Take the top five most followed Twitter accounts: Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Kim Kardashian and Britney Spears. President Obama makes it in at sixth. Are these really the people we are replacing NPR with?

If we lose the journalist, we have to stop and think: Are the times really changing? Or, as the rest of the world watches, are we dumbing ourselves down?

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