In recent years, I have searched for podcast news programs, even though news podcasts with frequent updates and rich content are difficult to find, due to a business model that mainly relies on commercial sponsorship.
I find myself instead listening to the New Folder (新資料夾), a podcast news series hosted by independent Taipei City Councilor Chiu Wei-chieh (邱威傑), who is also a YouTuber better known as “Froggy” (呱吉).
Although the show offers more entertainment than news, and Froggy and cohost Liou Cai-ling (劉采翎) have no journalism background, they do not cut corners on fact-checking.
If they did not verify the news in advance, all of the discussion, analyses, laughing and cursing would be of no value.
In late January, the English journal Information, Communication & Society published an article titled “Legitimating a Platform: Evidence of Journalists’ Role in Transferring Authority to Twitter.” The study found that journalists are transferring their authority to social media.
After an analysis of hundreds of US news stories containing tweets in 2018, the article said that “journalists have come to treat tweets more like content, an interchangeable building block of news, than like sources, whose ideas and messages must be subject to scrutiny and verification.”
Journalism is a profession based on facts, but facts do not verify themselves. After verification, the journalist can analyze the facts, comment on them and provide guidance based on them.
However, over the past year, headlines containing phrases such as “exposed on the Internet” or “stuns the Internet” have become common, and some news stories are simply credited to “coordinated reports” or “comprehensive reports,” without being attributed to a journalist.
These news stories typically use social media content as sources, while the reporters are acting like any other Internet user.
The widespread use of such content might be related to the survival strategies and division of labor in today’s media.
However, those in the news business have neither the time nor the interest to run their social media accounts, while editors in social media look down on the media’s content and productivity. As a result, the media have begun to use platforms for their large volume of irresponsible content, which generates a higher flow of news stories.
As journalists continue to transfer verification to social media, and social media are incapable and unwilling, under their business model, to take greater responsibility for fact-checking, who becomes the victim?
If the media are untrustworthy and social media are irresponsible, people in democratic societies do not have access to reliable information. How can they judge whether to support government policies?
There is an increased risk that Internet users will end up supporting Chinese propaganda, becoming “little pink ones” (小粉紅), or young Chinese nationalists online, without even joining Beijing’s “50 Cent Army” (reportedly what it pays Internet moderators in yuan per post).
Of course, the responsibility does not rest solely with the news media and social media.
In the Internet era, when almost anyone can disseminate information online through social media, everyone must responsibly distribute information, and not just give in to their emotional reactions. That way, each and every person makes at least some small contribution to democracy.
Chang Yueh-han is an assistant professor in Shih Hsin University’s Department of Journalism.
Translated by Eddy Chang
“Testy,” “divisive,” “frigid,” “an exchange of insults” were some of the media descriptions of last month’s meeting in Anchorage, Alaska, between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and their Chinese counterparts. Council on Foreign Relations president Richard Haass said that, rather than the “deft handling” needed in US-China relations, this encounter was “mishandled, a terrible start [with] way too much public signaling.” Yet, contrary to conventional wisdom, the acrimonious encounter with Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi (王毅) and Chinese Central Foreign Affairs Commission Director Yang Jiechi (楊潔篪) was a great success for US diplomacy
In studies of Taiwan’s demographic changes, the Institute of Sociology at Academia Sinica has found that a mere 36.5 percent of men and 19.6 percent of women think getting married is an important life event. The institute also found that the government spending money or amending laws and regulations in order to encourage families to have children is having no impact on the birthrate. Opinions differ on whether this kind of change is a matter of national security, as Japan faces a similar situation, without having a negative impact on its economic strength. Fewer women are willing to marry and the divorce
Interrupting the assimilation of Xinjiang’s Uighur population would result in an unmanageable national security threat to China. Numerous governments and civil society organizations around the world have accused China of massive human rights abuses in Xinjiang, and labeled Beijing’s inhumane and aggressive social re-engineering efforts in the region as “cultural genocide.” Extensive evidence shows that China’s forceful ethnic assimilation policies in Xinjiang are aimed at replacing Uighur ethnic and religious identity with a so-called scientific communist dogma and Han Chinese culture. The total assimilation of Uighurs into the larger “Chinese family” is also Beijing’s official, central purpose of its ethnic policies
Early last month, China’s rubber-stamp legislature, the National People’s Congress (NPC), officially approved the country’s 14th Five-Year Plan. The strategy was supposed to demonstrate that China has a long-term economic vision that would enable it to thrive, despite its geopolitical contest with the US. However, before the ink on the NPC’s stamp could dry, China had already begun sabotaging the plan’s chances of success. The new plan’s centerpiece is the “dual-circulation” strategy, according to which China would aim to foster growth based on domestic demand and technological self-sufficiency. This would not only reduce China’s reliance on external demand; it would also