Nervous State

The news agenda has been reconfigured into a stand-up comedy club – and the big tech platforms are to blame. That’s according to tech magazine Wired’s review of a new book by William Davies, Nervous States. Davies argues that it isn’t that we think journalists are lying any more than we used to, but rather we have grown obsessed with the idea that every source is biased – the news is framed perniciously and the real stories aren’t covered. The internet’s ‘data deluge’ has overwhelmed the filtering system the news provided, and now we don’t know what’s true and what’s not. ‘In the WikiLeaks era, we read the news as if we were sifting through a mud of hidden agendas to find gold nuggets of truth’, Davies writes.

We know that trust in the news sources found via search and social media remains extremely low, according to data from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. Moreover, news fatigue, especially during COVID-19, is endemic. Even before a period where one event dominated the news agenda, 24% of people in the UK said they actively tried to avoid the news.

At least one of the reasons behind news avoidance, Davies writes, is the media’s monolithic nature. The more it focuses on one story, the more people tend to hate it. But as print sales continue to plummet, and publications turn to business models dependeny on clicks, it’s the articles that evoke outrage and laughter that will get the most attention. As a consequence, the news is seen as superficial, sensationalist and inaccurate, which leaves us feeling powerless and depressed, he argues.

Big tech to the rescue?

So what are tech firms doing about it? Well Google has this week pledged to pay out more than $1bn in licensing fees for news content over the next three years as news publishers continue to struggle under the fall in advertising revenues due to the pandemic. The new initiative, Google News Showcase, will present curated content from select newsrooms to readers in the form of story panels, appearing first on Google News on Android and then Apple iOS and in the search function. So far, Google has got nearly 200 leading publications on board across Germany, Brazil, Argentina, Canada, the UK and Australia.

The Google News Showcase will allow participating publishers to create packages however they want, with features like timelines, bullet points and related articles and, in the future video, audio and daily briefings will be available.

Publishers have long complained that although news aggregation on platforms such as Facebook and Google is useful to grow digital readership, it also allows these businesses to hold a monopoly on advertising, whilst not actually curating the news content. While both Facebook and Google have made sizeable commitments to support news publishing, attempts to compel the platforms to pay publishers and share algorithm changes in advance have been met with firm resistance by both tech giants.





Vicki Young has been appointed Deputy Political Editor at BBC News.

Morgan Meaker has joined the Daily Telegraph’s Technology Intelligence Team as a Reporter.

Maria Lally is now Digital Health Editor at The Telegraph.

Alice Ross has been appointed Deputy News Editor at the Financial Times.

Alex has left his role as City News Editor at the Evening Standard and is joining the Mail on Sunday business desk as Senior City Correspondent.

Ally Farrell has joined ITV as a News Features Producer on Good Morning Britain.

Conor Matchett has been appointed Political Reporter at the Scotsman, covering Holywrood and Scottish Politics.

Alexandra Rogers has been appointed Parliamentary Correspondent at Yorkshire Live and MyLondon.


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