The world of communications has never before gone through such a large number of changes in such a short time. In the space of a few years, news and information gathering and distribution have jumped around faster than a flea on a dog. We have gone from newspapers and broadcasts packed with as many stories as editors and producers could jam into them to the likes of CNN which spends days, weeks and months beating to death one story at a time. We have gone from television and radio programs sharing advertising and entertainment space to Netflix and other ad-free services vying with broadcasting programs on the way to becoming 100 per cent advertising flyers.
We also have gone from a fairly pure Internet to a jumble of pro, semi-pro and completely amatuer media sites, blogs and, increasingly, fake news.
Real news and information on which we can rely is not dying out but it is having to compete minute by minute with the the hype, the phony, the nonsensical and the truly insane. Sources have moved out from the Globe & Mail, the Wall Street Journal, the London Time and Tass to The Huffington Post, Breitbart, PravdaPost, and, of course, the Tweets of the new U.S. president.
Donald Trump is not the first president of the United States to eschew news conferences as a means of spreading his word; President Obama held only 17 news conferences while in office. But Trump is the first president to prefer Tweeting to talking to the media and the only chief exec who admits 140 characters cover every important thing he is thinking at the moment.
Changes to news and information are not halting; they aren’t even slowing. Although it seems like years, it has only been a year or two that news shows have become endless drivel shoveled out by so-called panels of experts who illustrate what they don’t know about the subject du jour. Surely, broadcasters will have to change this format soon or lose the last of audiences who have turned, in large part, to the movies and TV content on Netflix et al. Fake news has been exposed and it will either proliferate because more people are getting into the game or will die off because users will learn how to distinguish it from anything valuable. Bloggers tend to drop like flies when their sites don’t attract viewers so blogging will reform somehow, if it hasn’t already.
It’s a great ride at the moment, watching the changes to information gathering and distribution. It’s disheartening to professional communicators who remember what traditional news and docs used to be but it’s an interesting and absorbing challenge for the under-30s who have to learn what to trust, to like and to avoid in print and in the ether. Happy New Era.