When news is no longer news

Over the last several years I have become concerned at the level of clickbait in the news. The deliberate merging of information and entertainment to become “infotainment” is nothing new. What might be new though is the level of it pervading New Zealand news.

New Zealand’s primary hosting site for such material is Stuff. This is a multimedia site owned by Fairfax. It was primarily established to be a central home online for New Zealand newspapers and indeed the major ones all have a sub page on the website. The content online costs nothing to the user.

However a disturbing rise in what is known as click bait has been noticed. Click bait is a deliberately distracting type article with little or no meaningful knowledge in it, and will be titled something like “Ten photos of female celebrities having wardrobe malfunctions” or “Ten things airline cabin crew want to tell you”. Photographic clickbait is often stronger in terms of visual. They can be found as photo links often somewhat misleading or exaggerated and appear at the bottom of news articles.

The average persons knowledge is in no way enhanced. Certainly other than reducing productivity by distracting the reader from the task at hand, no meaningful transaction of knowledge or action that helps the reader or anybody else is likely – my writing a whole article about this at 0200 in the morning, when I should be in bed, is the exception rather than the norm.

And yet at the same time so much is ignored by New Zealand media. When the London apartment building caught fire, The Press had it as a front page article ringed by a black border – something usually only reserved for disasters of major magnitude such as the Christchurch earthquake or Pike River. But if an apartment building had caught fire in China and killed that many people, few would have said more than “oh, that is terrible” and go back to whatever they were doing.

So much is given to rugby, that many sports that might have otherwise meaningfully gained from the exposure are left to wither. My cousin for example used to play for the New Zealand womens indoor cricket team. She went to Sri Lanka for the Womens Indoor Cricket World Cup in 2003 with them. Did any of you reading this article know that actually happened?

No? Then you certainly would not have known they came 3rd.

I just find it ironic that the merging of infotainment is increasingly starting to fail. People are realizing it is click bait and not clicking on it, or they do, but they then do not any longer share with others stuff that they might have done so in the past. I wonder also where the photos came from – were they taken by paparazzi violating peoples privacy, or legally obtained but with restrictions on use that were then violated for malicious intent? And how many of those articles that have headings like “Ten reasons….” were actually researched at all?

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