How Long Until Truthful Information Becomes Worthless?

Photo cred: Diego Sevilla Ruiz

Hypothetical situation: You trust me. I post an article somewhere. Your trust for me then translates to trust in the content I’m sharing, and so you trust that the article is credible. Then you share it, your readers trust you…rinse, and repeat.

Safe to say this happens often?

Today, credibility in content is determined by who and how many share it. As credibility becomes increasingly determined by sharability the value of the truth is driven downward.

Look at it from a basic economic perspective. As the supply of information increases, the price of information decreases. Supply is at an all time high, price is at an all time low. As the price of information decreases, the resources used to provide quality information becomes unaffordable. If consumers don’t pay for information, suppliers can’t invest any money to ensure its credibility.

Truthful information has never faced the competition it faces today. As citizen journalism grows as a primary source for information, the need for investigative journalism as a paid alternative decreases.

Bloggers do not have to write truthful content. In fact, many of the most successful (popular) blogs focus on SEO and on writing successful copy in order to drive ad revenue, product and affiliate sales. Their “success” in driving traffic then translates to credibility in the eyes of the reader. If a blogger gets a ton of traffic, they must be credible, right?

They’re writing to get more people to come to their site, with absolutely no check on honesty.

Truthful content still exists, but is often buried under google pages of the popular stuff. Even if you refused to take information at face value, and choose to dig deeper in search of the truth, chances are you won’t find it.

As you become more reliant on social networks to determine what information is worthy of reading, you play into a system that has minimal consideration for credibility.

Where honesty should reign supreme, popularity now drives authority and credibility.

How much longer until truthful information becomes completely worthless?

CNN Relies on Social Media in Haiti Earthquake Coverage

Firstly, my thoughts are with all the people suffering in Haiti after this horrible tragedy.  The Red Cross tweeted that you can help by texting “HAITI” to 90999 to donate $10 to relief efforts.  If you know of any other ways to help, let me know and I will add it here.

This just went up on Mashable… 9 Ways to help Haiti

As I was just watching the news on CNN, there was a clear presence of social media in their reports on Haiti.  In fact, it was ALL social media.

They were pulling pictures from twitter and facebook, they used google earth to show you where the earthquake took place.  The only piece of investigative journalism they did was interview the people posting up twitpics!  I also saw other media sources commenting on pictures, asking the person where they took the picture? (the extent of their background check)?

They provided literally NO original content.  The CNN employee sitting at a computer monitoring social networks was doing the same thing as any other web savvy user seeking out news.  They were as investigative as anyone using twitter search as they filled in time by scrolling through the same 10 pictures they found on twitter, and teaching us about earthquakes…

It’s great that they’re implementing social content into their coverage, but now it just seems like they’re relying on it…

When social networks become an investigative journalist’s best resource, do they still have a purpose?  Are they no better than automatic filters, choosing which information we get to see?

Note: I realize that this may be an exceptional case.  Among other variables, as I was watching the news, it was still very unsafe for reporters travel into Haiti.  Still, I believe it’s a possible trend worth discussing.

EDIT: I just want to point out that this post was meant to discuss a possible trend.  It was not a statement of the current situation.  The day after writing this, once CNN was able to get to Haiti, Anderson Cooper showed us that good journalism still exists and how important it still is.