By Dale Boyd
Reading through the archives of the Osoyoos Times can be a fun way to learn local history and get a slice of life from the past.
It is also revealing that while the social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) is a new format, our human need to share our lives is quite similar.
“Mr. and Mrs. Bud Buholzer of Edmonton are visiting with the former’s parents Mr. and Mrs. Gus Buholzer,” is a direct quote under the heading “Local News” from the Jan. 7, 1960 edition, along with many similar entries.
There are plenty of these in our archives, outlining trips to visit grandkids or vacations to the coast, which continually read like slow-motion Facebook feeds. The concept is not new, just faster and more accessible. My point is, in the heyday of print media, newspapers were thought of as the gatekeepers of information. It is abundantly clear this is no longer the role of journalism, local or otherwise. With a computer and internet access you can get all the information you want straight from government organizations, corporations or even breaking news on natural disasters from your local tourism agency.
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“The media,” a generalized and often overused precursor, brings to mind cable news outlets, big print publications and headlines which make their way into your line of sight. However, social media was given its own category, created by and for you, and for about a 10-year grace period avoided the stigma of bias, misinformation and conspiracy which still plagues traditional news outlets today.
Whatever power news organizations used to hold is no longer relevant in terms of information gatekeeping, yet critics, contrarians and faux intellectuals still like to pretend its 20 years ago when it comes to news media.
The gatekeepers have changed. Who really holds the information, offered up for free by billions worldwide every day? Facebook, Google, Twitter, Amazon. These companies are making money, controlling what news you see with algorithms, including studying app-user’s behaviour with more aggravating content, without consent (yes, Facebook has likely experimented with your data). Yet I see no public ire, no outrage on the level I see first-hand at your local newspaper.
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The discussion of the power these tech companies hold is now coming to the fore. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg refused to attend a committee on digital regulation, and governments, regulatory bodies and politicians in general are way behind the curb on this issue, and ill-equipped to handle it.
So is the general public. If you think a certain media outlet is biased, you can read differing opinions. Most outlets provide the news for free online, and the news industry is in a constant state of flux as companies like Amazon and Facebook bring in billions on the backs of your information and free participation.
Recently Google and Apple re-launched their mobile news platforms in an attempt to work together with the industry to re-invigorate how we consume news. You really have to ask yourself, who holds the cards (billions of dollars) in that situation, and who really deserves your critical eyes and words?
My byline is on my articles. My office is in Osoyoos. I report on local stories. So the next time you want to project your mistrust, perhaps there are organizations more deserving who, you know, actually have power to abuse.