Fast news, slow journalism and the race for power

Social media exercises vast power over the news agenda - making, breaking and mistakenly reporting to an audience of millions. Now is the time for traditional journalism to wrest back power.

It's time for 'slow' news to reclaim its crown, argues Holly Ashford
It's time for 'slow' news to reclaim its crown, argues Holly Ashford

Six years ago, the Arab Spring sent shockwaves across the Middle East. Online and print news media were dominated by reports of protest, violence, politics and revolution.

Yet there was another domain which was to emerge as a prime source of update and insight from the region: Twitter.

The period marked a turning point for the social site, fuelling its evolution from a platform for 140-character bicker and banter, to an enabler for breaking news and citizen journalism.

Similarly, it has emerged as a key channel for PR; a digital mouthpiece for client news and views, with the benefit of real-time insight into who has received, interacted with and shared a client’s messaging.

The power of social media cannot be denied. Yet power is not always a force for good, and rarely equates to unbiased, objective and transparent news reporting.

Our digital culture has spawned expectations of immediate, 24/7 access to services and information.
This has led to many of us placing undue value on these qualities; 'news' should by its very nature be reported and delivered as fast as possible, right?

Elevating social media – and the instant (news) gratification it provides – to such a height serves to diminish the importance of long-form journalism.

Emphasising speed over quality condemns traditional journalism to an eternal game of catch-up, in which it always lags one step behind the social media competition.

So why does much of the PR industry still invest considerable time in creating long-form content?

Why do a client’s eyes still light up when they see a quote or comment piece featured in a top-tier publication?

Traditional, 'slow' journalism still holds weight. Credibility, honesty and validity will always trump sensationalism, manipulation and extremism.

In-depth research, creativity and flair can convey a story, message, ethos or zeitgeist in a way which engages and consumes the reader and lends authority to the writer, client or publisher.

Social media input wields great power as a news source, but traditional 'slow' journalism is far from dead.

Despite one in ten of us using social as our main source of news, a potentially sizeable audience still remains for long-form.

Social’s misappropriation of its might – through fake news, lax censorship, regulation, and shirking of responsibilities – presents the ideal opportunity for a resurgence of real news.

As a writer and English Literature graduate who still buys physical newspapers – and enjoys the whole inky-fingered reading process – I will always favour long-form journalism over snappy social soundbites.

Technology will continue to develop at an exponential rate, but our capacity and willingness to consume news will only go so far.

It’s time to channel Aesop and realise that slow and steady will win the race.

Holly Ashford is a senior content writer at Babel

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