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Saturday, January 19, 2013

Don't know what you got till it's gone

Yesterday someone pointed out to me that small local newspapers, like the one for which I work, have a precarious foothold on existence in the world of Facebook where local news travels like wildfire. Social media's entrance into the 'news' business has impacted every news gathering agency from small town newspapers like mine to the big boys at the New York Times. We in the business know this and have been trying to counter the social media affect by getting in on the action ourselves (I tweet at GysboroJournal...rarely). I am not sure if this is the correct approach. Perhaps what we should really be doing is trying to educate the public as to what the difference is between Facebook posts, tweets and citizen journalist.

What is the difference? It should be fact checking, a non-biased point of view and a critical look and presentation of both sides of any story. Unfortunately, much of the major news media groups seem to have forgotten that this is what sets them apart from the rumor mill that is social media.

Two weeks ago the federal government of Canada implemented changes to the Employment Insurance (EI) program affecting workers nation-wide. The changes were outlined last spring but when they were enacted two weeks ago the reaction was swift and negative. Within days I saw the following message on the newsfeed of several friends:

With the new EI changes in effect, you are supposed to call at least 1 place per day looking for work. I suggest that you call your MP's office every day and ask if they have a job for you and ask them to write down your information and keep it on file that you were looking for work in their office. The new rules state...s that a business must keep track of everyone who calls or comes into the their business looking for work so the EI police can call to check if you are seeking employment. I'm sure the businesses will enjoy having to take down 500 peoples information a day and keep it on file for maybe a year or so. I suggest that you then call your local PC MLA and ask them if they have a job for you and to keep track of you calling seeking employment. COPY AND PASTE SO OTHERS CAN SHARE IT AS WELL!!! This should go over like a bag of hammers...

I posted this response:

Do you know anyone who has actually been asked to do anything different under the new EI rules? I don't. I am on EI and have not been notified of any additional hoops that I am required to jump through. I am afraid that there is a lot of misinformation out there about what is now required of EI claimants.

No one posted a response claiming to have first hand knowledge of anyone actually being required to make calls, or having received notification that this would be a requirement in the future. Since the EI changes have come into effect I have filed another EI report, received my usual cheque and have not been notified of any changes necessary to keep my claim active. I have spoken to two other EI claimants in the area and they too have received no such notifications.

This stands as the prime reason that real news media, real journalism is still necessary in this world of social media saturation. Misinformation. Social media has a tendency to fuel hysteria; it's left to the real media to set the record straight. But will anyone be listening? How many false news stories have to make the rounds before people will realize that Facebook and twitter don't amount to the modern day equivalent of news but are actually the modern day version of back fence gossip. Declining readership indicates that the people won't wake up to the misinformation they've been consuming at least not yet. Will they wake up in time to save real news? I doubt it. I'll just keep humming this song and see if anybody hears it.

Don't it always seem to go

That you don't know what you've got

Till it's gone

They paved paradise

And put up a parking lot

(thanks Joni)

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