Incorporating a business into the world of social media can be challenging. The competition to grab the attention of people scrolling through their newsfeeds requires more than bright colours and click bait. Your content has to be relevant and easily accessible. But more importantly, your content should be something that people want to hear about. Otherwise the backlash can be staggering. Recently the Donnelly Group, an independent business based out of Vancouver that owns pubs such as the Bimini and the Lamplighter, made another shift in their business by purchasing the now closed Railway Club. The Railway Club had been a Vancouver staple since the 30s, but fell out of business after it’s last owner couldn’t keep it up. Then when he couldn’t see it they shut it down. When Vancouver local Jeff Donnelly decided to buy the club one would think enthusiasts would rejoice, right?
Wrong. Shortly after the news broke the CBC released an article interviewing partner Chad Cole on the future of the club, where in the interview he stated that “unfortunately [live music]’s not going to be a core element of this new pub.” The news of the Donnelly Group buying out the club spread like wildfire over Facebook and the comment sections of Georgia Straight articles and those done by Vancity Buzz were alive with internet rage. Comments ranged from “For most people The Railway Club is synonymous with live music…to bring the place back without live music is very disappointing” to “I’d rather tear it down than turn it into another generic vapid soulless chain bar. Not going” to calling out employees who work there: “…then the greasy, little floor manager comes over and says “how can I make this right for you?” What a joke”.
The anger was on. But despite the complaints of no live music, the article continued to explain that there would in fact be live music, just not as frequently as the venue had in the past. A follow up article was released emphasising that there would be at least four nights of live music a week due to the backlash. As for the “bad beer, worse food”, the Donnelly Group actually sources almost all of their beer and food locally, and is a proud supporter of local breweries and sponsor of Vancouver events. If any of the commenters had attempted to do the smallest bit of research into this new group that was reviving their so-called favourite establishment when nobody else would, they would learn all of this. This is the effect of social media news.
People have gotten used to bite sized pieces of information. Today things are limited to 140 characters, 7 second videos and status updates to express huge events in our lives. When our attention span has been trained to be so short, all we read is the headline. The drawback is that these headlines can be misleading and often don’t give people the correct information. Pre-conceived biases people hold can be triggered by a negative headline they don’t agree with or enlightened by one that they do. How many times have you “liked” or reacted to an article’s headline without clicking on the link? According to a survey by the Pew Research Center, 62% of U.S. adults get their news on social media. NPR reported that a Stanford survey conducted found that 80% of middle schoolers in 12 states couldn’t tell the difference between fake and real news. Based on the comments sections of certain Facebook articles, I’d wager that percentage would only be slightly less for adults. Fake news is effective because people believe what they want to believe. They want something to talk about, and when everyone has their own internet soapbox, it’s easy to yell your opinion into the void, however misinformed it may be. People see a title that supports their way of thinking and because it’s a “published” piece of writing, they cling on to that.
Publishing has changed now that Facebook is in play. In the Columbia Journalism Review’s article “Facebook is eating the world”, writer Emily Bell states “The future of publishing is being put into the hands of the few who control the destiny of the many.” Facebook’s power of news distribution is huge, and who can say what will and will not be published when people’s views of the truth have become so obscure, and even the president is spewing lies in national addresses. The technological powerhouses such as Google, Facebook and Apple have all started to dip their toes in the new industry, with Apple recently launching “Apple News” to add to the growing list of sources.
“When facts don’t work and voters don’t trust the media, everyone believes in their own truth.” claims Katharine Viner in her essay for the Guardian, published in July of last year. For a piece written over six months ago, the statements couldn’t be more true now. The world of publishing and how we receive and even accept our news is changing, and people blowing a restaurant chain out of proportion is just a small example. Incidents like #pizzagate that start off ridiculous and lead to shootings could just be the tip of the iceberg if people don’t start being more responsible for the news that they choose to regurgitate.
But the public doesn’t always believe they have time, or even consider looking deeper into the articles they’re being fed. In an attempt to stop the catcall of “fake news” and “alternative facts”, websites like Teen Vogue and Slate are attempting to educate their readers on how to spot false articles, with Slate even going so far as to create a Chrome extension that actually highlights articles on your newsfeed as possibly false if they come from uncredible sources. Despite this attempt, Slate’s headline for the announcement gives off the real message: “Only you can stop the spread of fake news.” The message is clear, and if people have a duty to themselves and to those around them to believe that the truth is not subjective when it comes to delivering facts. In the end, that’s what news media has always been and what we must fight to make it today.