Explainer: The Evolution of the Reporting of Breaking News: The Black Rights Movement

Intro

The current Black Rights Matter protests were provoked by the injustice of black people being killed and treated unfairly, specifically by police officers. The tipping point and start of this movement was largely based on the recent death of George Floyd, choked to death by a policeman for allegedly trying to use a fake check. Since the incident, riots have broken out and escalated with US citizens protesting and raiding businesses. Other countries such as England and Australia are showing their support by organising marches and protests of their own. Individuals are uploading footage of the events on social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. To reach a larger audience, most of the footage is posted along with trending hashtags such as #BlackLivesMatter and #JusticeForGeorgeFloyd.

Most key news sources, including The Australian are keeping their viewers up to date on the current rallies. The Australian has been sure to continually produce updates on the breaking news through their website. These updates are found in both editorial and commentary form and are shared on their social media platforms to create traction. The following report will detail the history of the reporting of breaking news and the tools The Australian implements to report effectively.

The Australian 3 June

History of reporting

The means of reporting breaking news has changed drastically in the last 100 years. At the time of the sinkage of the Titanic, the news was circulated through telegraph and later the newspaper. However, this was largely ineffective in reporting the incident. Fake telegraphs, much like our well-known fake news, circulated, claiming that the ship had not sunk at all.

Another way breaking news was reported in the past was through radio. Surprisingly, this too was found to cause confusion when reporting. During the event of John F Kennedys assassination, Dallas Radio Station KLIF reported the president to be both dead and in critical condition at the same time. It would be expected that journalists would have learned from the past and tried to find a way to fix these errors, however, much of the same reporting issues are found today on platforms like Twitter.

How breaking news is reported today

Currently, most news companies report breaking news on their website and social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram. Twitter, although effective in spreading information quickly, has been known for the quick spread of fake news. As 71 percent of Twitter users use the platform to get news updates, the transfer of counterfeit news can occur rapidly. However, when reporting, Twitter is very effective in reaching a large audience.

Instagram is also key platform used by many organisations to focus more on the image side of the topic of report. This is good for reaching a different audience by drawing people in through imagery.

How the Australian is reporting

The Australian, a news source since 1964, has been effective in their efforts to report on the present Black Right Movement. They have a selection of news stories and updates on the movement on their website.

They also provide regular news updates on their Twitter account. With 722.4k followers, the organisations way of using social media is an extremely efficient way to reach people. In some of their posts and updates they have included #BREAKING to make their post easier to find. On one particular post, they included a link to where you can get live coverage from the riots. Another article that they shared on Twitter, titled ‘Social distancing lost in the crowd’, details coronavirus dangers involved in the recent black rights protest in Sydney. The story reports on the mass of attendees and the high risk of the spread of coronavirus.

“We remain concerned that such a large gathering has occurred without regard for the need to maintain social distance…”

Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius

Reporters have to gain regular updates on these protests despite the risk of things such as coronavirus or violent behaviour. This willingness to take risks to report this breaking news is what enables the Australian to provide such good coverage of the black rights protests and events.

As there are 330 million active Twitter users, with the tools they are using, The Australian has the chance to reach a very wide audience. 

The Australian, 4 June

Another platform The Australian uses regularly is Instagram. With over 60 thousand followers, the organisation is able to reach a large audience through imagery. One post, made on the 4th of June, shows a stunning image of protesters lighting a fire as a way to defy the police. Another post made on the 3rd of June captures protesters in beautiful light, with dusk falling around them. These carefully crafted photos, together receiving a hundreds of likes, enable The Australian to communicate to people that prefer visuals rather than articles.

What we can learn

The way breaking news is reported now is an improvement in some respects. Thanks to the implementation of social media, it is the easiest its ever been to reach a wide audience. Due to such platforms as Twitter and Instagram, The Australian is able to reach people all over the world. The tools they implement, such as using hashtags and imagery in their posts, can enable them to appeal to certain people groups.

However, fake news and misinformation is a bigger issue than ever. With the ability to share news so quickly one false claim can be spread to millions of people in a matter of minutes.

So how can this problem be decreased by a news organisation such as The Australian? Reporters need to be sure that they are only reporting what they know not what they think. If they report hard facts rather than opinion, it limits the likelihood of the information being false. Secondly, as found in most news companies, an editor should read and approve all work before it is published. This can further ensure lack of factual errors in writing. Overall it is hard to limit the spread of fake news, however, by being thorough in checking the credibility of work being published, it can be limited.

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