As part of The Big Smoke’s Next Gen program, Giselle Atlas analyses the rise of opinion over fact and clickbait news over objective journalism.
Student: Giselle Atlas
Mentor: Valerie Buhajiar
Topic: The rise of opinion as news.
Opinions. They’re everywhere, whether you agree with them or not. If it’s turning on the television, opening twitter or reading a newspaper; it’s hard to judge if something is news or purely opinion. Years ago the only trusted news sources were the radio, newspapers or television. But nowadays, does the media even know if something is reliable?
For example, when I am writing a paper for school or studying for an exam my first instinct is to go on the Internet or check a book. I believe that books are more trustworthy when studying for an exam or assignment but that’s just personal preference. But if books are unavailable I turn to the all-knowing hive mind of Google to assist me in my studies. The first few web pages may be unhelpful but as I scroll, I wind up having to think “who is writing these types of articles, and why?”
If you ever stumbled upon one of my articles whilst writing a paper or a news story you would instantly know that what I write is purely opinion based on facts which I believe to be true. Of course, I check my information but it’s mainly opinions.
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But, if someone acts as though their opinions are the truth…what happens? Perhaps if someone wrote that “the American economy has never been worse and it’s all Trump’s fault” would you believe it without thinking? Without even checking facts or polls or graphs? I know many people who would, and trust me, we’re all guilty.
Do not be afraid! For there are many ways to pass this obstacle. First of all, you can google the website or author. Let’s take an article from The Big Smoke. From a simple Google we can see the Wikipedia page:
Great! Now, we know that The Big Smoke is an opinion website but is fact-checked within an inch of its life.
Now we’ll move on to popular news and entertainment sites: NBC News and news.com.au.
NBC News is an American site that covers media and political issues. From first glance we can tell that this is a news “based” site and looks very trustworthy considering NBC is the national broadcasting company in the USA, so we are going to let this site off with a pass. I even found an article about Trump that was purely factual, nice!
Next is many people’s homepage: news.com.au.
News.com.au is the fifth-best news website in Australia according to feedspot.com, right below the ABC and The Daily Telegraph. It has such sub-headings as world, lifestyle, entertainment and travel. It has been a few months since I last went on this site and I have noted some differences:
• News.com.au has diverted from its bright colours and yellow borders of the past and have selected a palette of white and grey.
• Maybe to seem more professional and less “tabloid-y”.
• Where are the tabloid articles that always appeared on the front page?
News.com.au relies on the constant publishing of articles without delay. Sometimes it can be argued whether some of these pieces could actually be considered news or just clickbait and trying to make mountains of out molehills.
As an example I found an article about a woman finding out that her fiancé likes porn… Is that what news is now? Senseless articles about nothing in particular? A few days ago the second-most clicked article on News.com.au was a picture of Kim Kardashian wearing what was purported to be the briefest bikini ever worn. Now look, each to his own and I get why you clicked but this is not teaching you anything or adding to your opinions about politics and world problems. This article is to news what Spongebob Squarepants is to education. Or like my grandfather used to say about material, “never mind the quality, feel the width.”
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- Read all about it: Public funding is the future for news in this country
- Fake news, the junk food of the masses (particularly me)
- All in the family: Biased news passed from parents, not online
After going through the pros and cons of two of the more popular “news” websites in Australia and the USA I think it’s time to explain my main reasons for writing this article.
Young people of this generation need to learn what it is to have and develop your own opinions. Just because something comes up on Instagram or Twitter does not mean it is true no matter how much someone tries to make you believe it. Of course there is a lot of real news on social media but mostly it’s just false accusations and clickbait. Young people believe that to fit in they have to like the same things as others. Whether it be music, movies or celebrities. But if we all did that, what is the point of living? We are given our own bodies, our own minds, our own thoughts. We shouldn’t waste this opportunity that only we as human beings have. Don’t believe something unless you truly want to. Don’t love something just because others do. Don’t be someone you’re not just to please others.
Because at the end of the day, life is ours to enjoy. And who are we to deny that?
This article is part of a series for The Big Smoke Next Gen.
The Big Smoke Next Gen is a program which matches professional and experienced writers, academics and journalists with students who wish to write non-fiction articles and voice their opinions on what is shaping the nation.
For more information about our program at The Big Smoke, or to become a mentor, please contact us.