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Being First in the Digital Age

Having recently reincarnated my voice in the twitter sphere, one of the biggest things I have noticed of late is that the race to post first is outweighing the race to post quality. This is true not only for twitter but also online newspapers which are increasingly dominating the market. I love reading the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ digital newspaper on my iPad, but one of my secret loves is downloading the newest addition as soon as it comes out and then refreshing it to notice half an hour later they have posted a correction to the article and an apology at the bottom. Why couldn’t they have waited another half hour to spell and fact check it? Why did it have to be first? I can’t help but reflect on the youthful advice my old school teacher once bequeathed to me.

“Books are much better sources than the internet, therefore your essay requires a minimum of ‘x’ physical sources to pass the assignment”

Print media is better than online?

But this was almost 10 years ago and the internet has changed a lot since then. These days Google Books and open source journals have completely changed the way we research and reference with most essays nowadays being dominated by online sources with few if any physically printed sources. Let’s face it, why would you physically search for a book when you can just type and get the online form in Google?

Plus books take forever to get published, and by the time there is a physical source, no one cares anymore. It’s old news! Right?

But this is indeed the problem. We become so addicted to immediate news that we are clouded by the weasel words such as ‘allegedly”, “possibly”, “unconfirmed reports” etc. in breaking news stories, that we forget that facts take a lot longer to emerge than just seconds after the event. We saw this no clearer than in the Sandy Hook Elementary Massacre.

Another thing I’ve noticed comes from the expansion of the amount of people I follow on twitter. I have many different sources to break to me cricket news so when someone gets out, I immediately check twitter to see who won, as in which account was first to post the dismissal. If I check twitter half an hour later, I feel stupid about commenting about it. It’s over. It’s old news. Who cares anymore?

And that is indeed the problem with the digital age. We all love information. We love it coming in fast, and there seems to be a lack of quality surrounding such immediacy.

Perhaps my teacher was right. Physical sources have the advantage of the whole story as it is seen over a long period of time. Edits can be made, facts can be checked, quality can be assured.

However, facts change. Stories change. Physical sources will never be the same again thanks to social media, blogs and digital newspapers.Therefore one must learn to judge immediate facts with caution. We live in a world of constant changes and updates. Therefore if you want the best, most qualitative and immediate source…

Use Wikipedia. Just don’t quote it.

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