Since the 2016 election, American citizens have become more concerned with how news is getting covered. This concern starts with President Donald Trump making claims that CNN is “fake news” and picking and choosing which news stations get to attend press conferences. His preferential treatment has many citizens wondering about how the news is being covered.
The expectation of journalists is to provide their citizens with unbiased information about what is going on in their local areas, in their country, and all around the world. However, many people believe that news organizations have become more concerned about their ratings and less concerned with telling the truth. And the President’s recent actions may only one factor in how news stations decide what gets covered and how. Let’s start with audience metrics.
News organizations have been keeping track of their ratings for many years through surveys and sales. However, the use of audience metrics for social media and their websites is a newer development. According to an article by Christoph Schlemmer on Media Shift, metrics allow news organizations to optimize their newsgathering resources by measuring interest from digital customers and audiences.
The American Press Institute (API) offers a deeper insight into how metrics are used through their project, Metrics for News. This is just one example of how a news organization might use analytics. According to the Metrics for News website, there are four major steps to data-driven journalism:
- Measure your content and readers more accurately
- Understand your community deeply
- Align journalism with the passions and interests of your audience
- Identify what topics your news organization should focus on
What this means is that a news station might look at what articles on their site are getting the most views and positive feedback and focus their resources on that type of content. The problem with this, of course, is the content covered may not accurately represent what is really happening in the world. Which is why the Metrics for Media website states that using Metrics for News is not a replacement for human judgment:
“Metrics for News empowers editors to make better decisions and use data to guide improvements. It helps you get better at the coverage that is important to you — it does not replace your judgment of what is important.”
Schlemmer had the opportunity to interview the editor-in-chief of the Australian Associated Press, Tony Gillies, who stressed that it is important for news organizations to make data-informed decisions, not data-driven decisions. Gillies added that in addition to using metrics they use their own means of deciding what gets covered.
It’s important for news consumers to keep this in mind when reading the news. Be aware that news organizations may be sticking to a certain type of tone and content to maintain reader loyalty as well as attract new readers. It’s wise to get news from several sources to make ensure that you have a well-rounded opinion of what is going on in your country and all around the world.