Social Media and the Meaning of News

Here’s some news you can read but don’t take seriously: A man was sentenced to jail after he was found naked in his girlfriend’s front yard. The naked man had tried to rob her because he needed money to buy lottery tickets. He thought he was going to get away with it, but instead the judge let him spend the night in jail. This story sounds like something out of a horror movie, but it really isn’t that hard to believe.

This just shows how news can change quickly on the Internet. If you are reading this, then you have probably seen or heard about the recent controversies over President Trump’s tweets regarding the NFL players who kneel during the national anthem. Some of the tweets were very disturbing and his critics said things that should never be said by a sitting President of the United States. Things like calling NFL players terrorists and saying that they should be fired. This was an antedating event, but it has already been used since Jan 20th to further fan the flames of controversy.

This is not the first time that President Trump has gotten into a tweeting war. Back in 2021 he called everyone who was upset about the planting of a football statue in a park “professional protesters”. In the tweet he mentioned his business, which was the subject of a dispute between a company that was trying to block the statue and Native Americans. This has caused many in the Indian community to threaten violence against those businesses. This is just one example of why it is important to have someone experienced with the Internet to handle any type of antingating, be it a public, private or personal Twitter posting.

A good point was made by Matt Schlapp, editor in chief at The Connecticut Journal, in a July article that was published online. He stated; “Twitter’s definition of media is getting more problematic by the day. The First Amendment does not say you can burn down newspapers or shout insults at fellow Twitter users. That goes beyond commentary, into assault.”

It appears that the First Amendment is pretty clear on what it means when it says that the press and the media can refuse to publish matters that the press finds newsworthy. However, the First Amendment does not specifically say anything about statements that the press may make. So we might be reading this in the context of a case, where a news organization is considering running a story concerning some type of ethical situation in local government, where a politician might be involved in some questionable action, or simply as an attempt by some political party to gain some political mileage in an upcoming election. Even if one believes that a statement like “the people of New York City do not have the right to burn the flag,” if that were true, then technically that could indeed be news, but if that was a statement that a newspaper had already published, then that would be news as well.

So it appears that the news and the Internet have a hard time agreeing on what makes a statement news, and therefore the use of the word ‘news’ itself has some complicated meaning in the present period. Of course as things change, so does the meaning of words, particularly in a world that seems to move faster than ever before. In the coming months and years it will be interesting to see where the definition of ‘news’ moves, and especially as the impact of social media increases.

By adminstro
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