Where does our news come from?

This article is a supplement to both Orbits (2017) and Orbits Lower-Intermediate (2018) books.

Vocabulary: Media, blog, social media, distributor, propaganda, journalist, news/media outlet, economical, product placement, political, politician, election, pollute, reliable, …

The US 2016 election revealed a major problem in society. The problem is the lack of ‘media literacy’. Media literacy is the ability to understand news and information. Many people think that it’s easy to read a newspaper, but the 2016 election revealed that countless millions of Americans were duped by Russian propaganda, and they did not even know it. This article will firstly discuss the origin of news in the past and today. Secondly, a discussion of how Americans are getting their news information today. Finally, the consequences of this.

Firstly, how do we get our news is important to know. In the past, the news came from newspapers. These newspapers employed their own journalists who went out to get their own news stories. There are two problems with this, it is expensive to employ a team of journalists, and the news could only come from local sources. Consequently, newspapers, TV news, magazines, and news blogs now buy news stories from each other, and news distribution companies like Reuters and AFP. Both Reuters and AFP have journalists all over the world finding and getting information. News distributors can write one story, and sell it hundreds of times, which is a cheaper economical than each newspaper sending their own journalists to write one news story to be used only once.

Today, media outlets (newspapers, tv news, news magazines, and news blogs) are finding more difficult to be profitable. Consequently, the media needs to make money from new sources. One new source of money is to be paid to publish articles that are like advertising for companies. For instance, Japan Today often publishes information about new electronic products. US media often publishes stories about political candidates. Basically, anyone, for any reason can publish almost anything, but they must pay.

Secondly, the traditional media is no longer the main source of news and information anymore. Many people in the US now create information, or discover sources of information, from websites and blogs, and share these in their social media feed. Consequently, for some, friends’ Twitter and Facebook feeds have become important sources of information for many. Polluting this feed are advertisements and fake accounts.

Finally, there is increasing evidence that the Russian government manipulated the US 2016 election. They did this quite simply by adding to the social media news feed messages that oppose each political party. These messages amplified the political and racial divisions in the US leading to intense hatred of each side. What will happen next? Nobody knows.

In summary, our source of news and information is not reliable anymore. Now there are paid product placements, and paid political articles in our newsfeed. Additionally, our social media is polluted with paid ads and fake information designed to keep us away from making good rational decisions about life. Consequently, we need to pay careful attention as to the real source of news and information.

  1. Summarise what you understand from this article
  2. What information was new and interesting to you?
  3. What happened to the US election in 2016? Could this happen in Japan too?
  4. How can Japan protect itself from another country manipulating the social media and the next election?
  5. How do you feel about this topic?