Departing from the age of television, social media platforms have taken as the primary source of news for most people. This technological shift has raised several issues on both the side of the audience and news distributors. Not to say that news on television is of absolute reliability, there is often an ambiguous amount of authenticity behind the sources in online news sources. The most significant issue that has been raised in light of the 2016 political election questions the level of reliability in news articles circulated in social media. This stands as an issue because unreliable, misleading, sensationalized, biased, or even false information in news can shape public knowledge. With this, I believe that online news media follows an extremely biased political agenda.
Although news bias is not a new problem in the news community, the contraction of professionalism that came with the shift from television news to online news has caused many online news corporations to lose integrity in their content. This is especially prevalent in newer “news” companies that seem to not only have an agenda, but are often caught using unreliable sources to back their content. This point raises the following question: Can a company that is reputable for its entertainment articles be considered a reputable news source? One of the most prevalent and controversial examples of this is BuzzFeed. As a company that was founded upon the onset of the digital age, BuzzFeed is considered by Bloomberg as a “social news and entertainment company.” (Bloomberg, 2017)
With these factors about the company being considered, a review on some of BuzzFeed’s recent articles regarding the politics reveals that they are more interested in giving audiences what they want to hear rather than showcasing a mature, practical and critical perspective on the issues they are trying to discuss. Although It is common knowledge that although Donald Trump won the most recent American presidential election, the majority of people who are savvy enough to be active on social media are rather progressive and disagree with the political agenda that Trump represents. Although there may be merit to their opinions, it is very obvious that there is a lack of critical perspective in news articles that examine the topic of contemporary American politics. For example, BuzzFeed produced this article about how celebrity J.K Rowling “roasted” Donald Trump on Twitter. (Woodward, 2017) Although most of their content may be factual in the sense that they provide direct links to the Tweets in question, this whole article has almost nothing to do with politics. Other than the fact that the receiver of these “roasts” is the most publicized figure 2017 in western media (even outside political discourse), the discussion in the article has little to no relevance to politics. At the same time, almost all of the audience knows what Donald Trump represents: conservative, uncool, racism, misogyny, negativity, etc. With this, it is evident that BuzzFeed is not interested in constructively dissecting Donald Trump’s political discourse or even who he is as a person, but is more concerned about labeling him as a bad person because it is the crowd-pleasing thing to do.
BuzzFeed’s content is not only under scrutiny by their audience, but also by scholars and other news corporations. News corporations such as The Guardian has raised concerns about the reliability of BuzzFeed’s political content. This article criticizes BuzzFeed’s article in which it actually has a disclaimer about the evidence behind their own article being “unverified and potentially unverifiable.” (Carroll, 2017) In an ethical standpoint, it should go without saying that when it comes to educating an audience, content should not be seriously conveyed without logic or evidence. With this, why would BuzzFeed produce an article where they cannot confirm their sources? (Bensinger, 2017) Moreover, BuzzFeed themselves are perfectly aware that their sources are not reliable, yet they put out the article anyway!
This all comes down to the fact that websites such as BuzzFeed are producing articles for the sake of making more money through clicks and increasing their popularity at the cost of public knowledge. I firmly believe that people like myself who are swarmed with articles like these on a daily basis dulls critical thinking, and people start to bandwagon on opinions based on unreliable news content instead of developing their own through critical analysis. Ultimately, this causes people to develop inaccurate opinions which can translate into people doing adverse things such as voting for an unideal candidate for an election.
With this, it needs to be brought into light that BuzzFeed’s content being “social news” should not be taken seriously. Because BuzzFeed’s entertainment content is circulated so frequently in social media, many people get the impression that they are a reputable source of news just because their name pops up a lot. With BuzzFeed’s entertainment content being considered, I feel that their entertainment content is very good at what it is trying to achieve: entertaining. When it comes to attempting to cover more serious topics such as politics where real consequences can come from inadequate opinions, BuzzFeed should take a step back and take on a more critical outlook and ensure that their sources are reliable instead of being trigger happy with their content just to make their audience happy. I strongly believe that agile and accurate opinions come from resistance; If there is just one dominant opinion being expressed through an agenda, we ignore why the opposing opinions are wrong and ultimately deteriorate the integrity of public knowledge and democracy.
Bensinger, K. (2017, Janurary 10). These Reports Allege Trump Has Deep Ties To Russia. (BuzzFeed) From BuzzFeed News: https://www.buzzfeed.com/kenbensinger/these-reports-allege-trump-has-deep-ties-to-russia?utm_term=.gjMQmq8QK#.dnxK3WLKb
Bloomberg. (2017, October 17). Company Overview of Buzzfeed, Inc. (Bloomberg) From Bloomberg: https://www.bloomberg.com/research/stocks/private/snapshot.asp?privcapId=46607363
Carroll, R. (2017, Janurary 11). BuzzFeed publishes unsubstantiated Trump report, raising ethics questions. (The Guardian) From The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/media/2017/jan/10/buzzfeed-publishes-donald-trump-russia-documents-ethics-questions
Woodward, E. (2017, October 7). J.K. Rowling Just Roasted Donald Trump On Twitter Again. (BuzzFeed) From BuzzFeed: https://www.buzzfeed.com/elliewoodward/jk-rowling-just-dragged-donald-trump-after-he-said-he?utm_term=.tjqJNmKJX#.lo14AYK47