by Tien Thanh
Everyone knows that in the media, speed is what counts and the quicker a story spreads, the more popular it becomes. The web has clear advantages in spreading the news. However, with so many competing sources, accuracy is often the price that is paid.
The mysterious disappearance of Malaysian Airlines' Flight 370, once again proved the online media's superiority in delivering news to readers, both in terms of speed and diversity of content.
Online newswires flooded the front pages with up-to-the-minute information, stories after stories of the latest photos, visual infographics, videos recorded from search planes, and each of these stories also attracted hundreds of comments.
The online coverage of the incident far surpassed that of traditional media orgainisations. Available on smartphones, tablets and laptops, the young tech-savvy generation has access to news like never before.
"I often check the news on my smartphones. I have not brought a printed newspaper for a long time," Nguyen Van Trung, a senior accounting student said.
"But it's a headache reading the news because the stories often contradict one another."
However Trung's headache is becoming more of a problem for younger readers, who in amidst the mass of information, often struggle to tell truth from fiction. This is the problem with media online. In a bid to bring the news to readers as quickly as possible, accuracy is lost.
As with vehicles, the faster speed, the greater the risk, and the same is true for newswires. The speed of spreading news is often inversely proportional to the accuracy.
Taking the missing plane case as an example, when a Vietnamese navy aircraft spotted an object, online newswires clamoured to claim it was debris from the missing plane, when in reality it was little more than a blurred object floating on the sea.
Other stories followed with photos, confirming that traces of oil were seen in the area of the last contact. Having attracted thousands of likes, the story turned out to be false alarm the next day.
Yet another other story reported that a commercial plane from Hong Kong had discovered debris from the plane but the Vietnamese search vessels failed to find anything.
"I feel frustrated sometimes because of the confusion and the lack of cohesion of some stories," Trung said.
While spreading news online can keep readers informed and make them feel as though they are part of the event, it also can make them impatient and angry when the stories turn out to be misleading.
There have been similar problems with the coverage of the U19 team, who are currently in England as part of their 51-day training trip in Europe.
During the team's first week of training in England, there was tide of information about them and their French coach Guillaume Grachen.
Major newswires, brought the latest news, photos and videos to hungry readers, while printed newspapers laid out big stories in their sports pages. A photo story on vnexpress.net, one of the most popular newswires in Viet Nam, on the match between Viet Nam U19 and Arsenal U19 got over 100,000 views, the most viewed photo story of the day. The video about the same match topped the charts and received over 70,000 views.
Dozens of other news stories about the team attracted hundreds of comments, mainly words of encouragement for the young players. The story about the team's 3-0 win attracted over 400 comments and over 10,000 likes on Facebook. Other popular newswires like dantri.com.vn and vietnamnet.vn also received a large number of views and likes as well as comments. However, it is perhaps important to ask what this all really means?
There were similarly overwhelming displays of admiration and emotion for the women's football team last year when they had the chance to make history by qualifying for the World Cup. However, when the National Women's Football Championships, took place at Thong Nhat Stadium in HCM City, the number of fans that turned up to support in person, was less than the number of players on the field.
It seems that in the age of the internet, it is all too easy to show support online, however does this translate into real support in the offline world?
As technology advances, it is perhaps prudent to remind ourselves of the implications of our actions online. They should follow the same set of principles that we do in the real world, and ensure people are not left feeling hurt or mislead. — VNS