Quantity vs Quality: The Public vs The Media, by Liana Walker

Imagine this, someone hands you $50 and says go buy a shirt. You could either head over to K-Mart and buy yourself five $10 shirts which might not last more than a month but at least you’ve got 5 shirts? Or you could head over to David Jones and buy yourself a nice Ralph Lauren shirt which may last for 5 years, but then again, you’ve only got 1 shirt?  Well the same applies to news, is it better to have ten 140 word tweets summarising many different stories or one 1400 word newspaper article giving you details about one event? 

In this day and age we are constantly consuming news. Whether it’s from the daily newspaper or the latest Tweet on our Twitter feed, we are continually inundated with news and updates. With events happening all over the world this 24/7 news consumption also means that there is 24/7 news reporting.  This leads to asking the question, which is more important, Quality or Quantity?

 

In 2014 commercial televisions stations Channel 9 and Channel 7 both increased their 6 o’clock news bulletins to one hour[1], matching Network 10’s already hour long 5pm news bulletin. All three commercial stations offer breakfast, midday, afternoon, night and late news bulletins as well as a variety of current affairs programs[2][3][4].  Shows such as Media Watch and Meet The Press take viewers behind the scenes in order to ensure the credibility of other medias news. The Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) offers World News nightly in English as well as Dutch, French, Greek, Hindi, Korean, Hong Kong, Latin, Macedonian, Maltese, Polish, Portuguese and Spanish News[5], alongside ABC’s Foreign Correspondent.  2010 saw the launch of The Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s (ABC) new 24 hour news channel, ABC News 24[6]The demand for quantity has lead to these extended bulletins, as well as constant access to updated news. Website telelvisionau.com gives more information about the history of Australian television including it’s news programs. 

 

A survey was conducted to find out how the general public accessed their news and what the thought of it’s quality and reliability. The survey found that Facebook and Television are the most used sources for finding news and News Websites are the most trusted resource, followed by television and radio. Truthful reporting was seen as the most important aspect of quality followed by unbiased reporting. News Websites were seen as the highest quality, with television, radio and print newspaper closely following. 43% of people believe the quality of the news has declined and 48% of people believe the reliability of the news has declined.  When given a chance to give their opinion about todays journalism and where it is heading, some of the comments included “I feel like some important world news goes unreported,”  “There is so much more information out there than there ever has been. The problem is that most of it has some agenda, where it’s to make money or to support a political ideology,” and “Internet allows for a lot more miscommunication than in previous time periods – people merely scanning headlines and espousing those as truth, facts getting mix up throughout the permutations of liking, reblogging and sharing.”  

Writer and Television presenter, Alain de Botton, comments on how many people are consuming too much news, due to access to it on our smart phones at any time of the day, and that people are unable to retain most of it[7]. On the contrary, journalist Lisa Wilkinson presented at the Annual Andrew Olle lecture, saying that although that access to news through social media is largely available most people will return to traditional medias to find credible stories[8].  The Newspaper Association of America (NAA) website gives more information about how much newspapers are circulated as well as information on online newspapers. 

I sat down with Natalia Gradwell, part time Journalist in Channel 7’s Newsroom, to talk about the quality and quantity of today’s news.  She spoke about how having more available content was better for the news as Channel 7 has switched from a half an hour to a one hour bulletin. When it came to checking sources, she mentioned how she often came across dodgy websites and would spend ages calling around to make sure she had accurate information.  Recently, Gradwell covered a story about the Gold Coast “Sniper” trial, “I went straight to Southport Courthouse, so it was probably 8am when I got there… He was found not guilty at 5:30 at night, so half an hour before the bulletin started,” she said, “I literally spent all day chasing this story, all day researching on my phone, all day ringing people, all day checking in.”  When asked about what was more important to her as a journalist, quality or quantity, Gradwell jumped straight to quality. “But quantity is important as well. Sometimes you have to skim over little things because you have to worry about the bigger picture.” She spoke about trying to find the balance between the two stating “everything has to be accurate, but sometimes you run out of time because there is so much quantity… I think there’s definitely a lot more news now than there has ever been before.” Gradwell spoke about how the general news layout has stayed the same, meaning the quality of the news also hasn’t changed. “For credited news stations thats the case, blogs and stuff like that I think they’re probably lacking in quality… I think that the quality for (credited news stations) has stayed just as good, if not even better because information’s easier to get these days.” 

 

With the results of the survey, the public interview and interview with Natalia Gradwell, coming to a conclusion as to whether quality or quantity is more important still seems blurred.  The demand for quantity is clearly there, and with over 400 different online newspapers[9] and 24 hour television news coverage, the access is also there.  The problem starts when blogs and social media become used to access the news, the credibility is almost demolished. When it comes to blogs, there are many that are accurate, credible and can easily be trusted[10], but literally anyone who has internet access can start a blog, meaning there are millions[11] out there able to post anything regardless of whether or not it is true.  With 73% of adults using some form of social media[12] it’s not surprising that many people go straight to these online sources for news.  This online access leads to the perception that the quality of news is diminishing.    

But even with these results can we really conclude as to whether the quality or quantity is more important? Imagine if the world had stayed the same and journalist were still typing out newspapers on our old fashion type writers and printing them using duplicating machines?  Even the upgrade of computers over the past few years has mean that journalist can take our own computers to work and continue to finish news stories even from home. But the most useful upgrade comes from the tablet, meaning journalist can take photos and videos at the scene of the event and upload them straight to news websites or broadcast straight to television.  The demand for quantity and quality is there. Credible journalist are embracing technology and providing as much quantity as possible, which is getting mixed in with unreliable bloggers and social media users therefore making the quality of the news appear lower.  At the end of the day, quality and quantity are equally as important, the 24 hour life style creates a need for constant updates, but news wouldn’t be the same if it lacked quality. 

 

[1] http://www.news.com.au/entertainment/tv/seven-and-nine-trade-blows-as-one-hour-news-bulletins-go-headtohead-in-eastern-states/story-fnk8579h-1226817234828 (Accessed 10 April 2014)

[2] https://au.tv.yahoo.com/tv-shows/ (Accessed 10 April 2014)

[3] http://channelnine.ninemsn.com.au/ourshows.aspx? (Accessed 10 April 2014)

[4] http://tenplay.com.au/browse-by-a-to-z (Accessed 10 April 2014)

[5] http://www.sbs.com.au/programs/genre/News (Accessed 10 April 2014)

[6] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2010-07-13/abc-to-launch-24hr-news-channel-next-week/903102 (Accessed 10 April 2014)

[7] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-03-26/alain-de-botton3a-need-for-news-updates-has-ushered-in-27a-ne/5346360 (Accessed 9 April 2014)

[8] http://www.abc.net.au/local/stories/2013/10/25/3876439.htm (Accessed 9 April 2014)

[9] http://www.onlinenewspapers.com/australi.htm (Accessed 15 April 2014)

[10] http://communityorganizer20.com/2012/07/03/what-makes-a-blogger-credible/ (Accessed 15 April 2014)

[11] http://blogging.org/blog/blogging-stats-2012-infographic/ (Accessed 15 April 2014)

[12] http://www.pewinternet.org/fact-sheets/social-networking-fact-sheet/ (Accessed 15 April 2014)

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