A contemporary specialist on Shakespeare, Frederick Gard Fleay, had earlier (1874) written: “If you cannot weigh, measure, number your results, however you may be convinced yourself, you must not hope to convince others.”
There has been various discourses with regards to the concept of “news quality” however, due to its subjective nature, there hasn’t be a unanimous vote on the definition.
For the purpose of this project, how should we define news quality then?
John Zaller (1999) believes that high news quality generally include information about matters of general political or social significance that will help citizens in their role as democratic decision-makers as well as to construct their knowledge and/or understanding of the larger world.
But what about information/news such as:
- the user interface of the latest Football Manager 2011 game (this helps me decide if i should get this for my brother this Christmas)
- how to use the different modes on my newly bought digital camera (the pictures i take from now are definitely going to look so much better..)
- Facebook acquires Fb.com, Set to Launch E-mail Service (does that mean that i’ll soon be holding… let’s see… five!! different email accounts. need to think about how to manage all of them efficiently)
Who is to say that the above are unworthy of the quality news title?
The various topics were after all covered in detail, with accurate and credible information provided. They were written for a real audience, though possibly smaller and more fragmented. Instead of being fixated on assigning a tangible ‘value’ to the various news genres, it seems more appropriate to classify them into the following two categories; “Hard News” and “Soft News”.
“Hard News”: synonymous with seriousness, covers important issues such as politics, economics, crime, war, and disasters, as well as certain aspects of law, business, science, and technology.
“Soft News”: generally focuses on the less serious subjects such as arts and entertainment, sports, lifestyles, ‘human interest’, and celebrities (gossip).
The emergence of the Internet as an alternative communicative space brought about the greater accessibility and variety of “Soft News” topics that are usually sidelined by the mainstream media.
Considering the low barriers of entry to the Internet to produce and/or consume news and information, it doesn’t come as a surprise to see the growth of specialized websites, focusing on special interest topics, each attracting the attention of its own tiny audience segments.
Not wanting to lose out to these specialized websites, we see established media organizations finding their “space” in the internet realm, establishing their online presence, dedicating more resources to “soft news” to cater to the preferences of their audience (BBC, CNN etc.).
Straits Times Interactive is the online version of its existing print counterpart. Hence one can deduce that its existence serves the primary role of making its news available to its existing and/or potential target audience who are probably too busy to read the full articles in the print version. The only “extras” are, blog posts by selected journalists as well as a discussion space for netizens to express their views and opinions, to engage in any online debate(s) on issue(s) that they feel strongly about.
STOMP however, has a very different target audience all together. As mentioned in other blog posts, STOMP’s primary target audience are youths. However it is interesting to note that the platform also allows registered users try their hand at journalism, basically to share their sightings on what’s happening in Singapore (also known as Citizen Journalism).
As many would observe that the “news” shared on STOMP – Singapore Seen (by the STOMPers) seem to be mostly on trivial matters, from “the inconsiderate singaporean who did not give up his seat on the mrt” to “college students in uniform made out at multi-storey carpark for 2 hours”.
To be fair to STOMPers who share, there are also other good information provided such as “Warning: This iPhone glitch allows others to bypass your passcode“, “19th century staircase in US chapel remains a mystery even today“. However if you were to take a closer look at the number of views of these articles, you will realize that these sort of “quality news” doesn’t seem to appeal as much as the often labelled “trashy” news.
Could we draw a conclusion that the STOMP audience seem to prefer “trashy” news over “quality” news?
All writers want their works to be read (journalists, novelists, theorists). Just like us writing our blog posts for this module’s project, at the very least, we would like for our fellow group mates to give them a quick read. Who actually likes writing for a non-existence audience?
Given the demographics and psychographics of youths of this time, we know that we all want to be heard, that’s what social networking sites and social media communities are set up for (to share, to be seen, to be heard). Hence if a fellow STOMPer (remembering that one has to be a registered user before any actual participation can take place) was to report or share something “trashy” just because he knows that it will be read, should we then fault him for his choice of news or should we fault the audience who keep coming back for more?
*Note: i think that the “trashy” news on STOMP, actually come under the “soft news” category, – lifestyle, human interest, gossip (minus the celebrities in this instance).*
Zaller, John. (1999) Market Competition & News Quality, UCLA, paper prepared for American Political Science Association, Atlanta