Have You Seen The News in WA…

Let’s say you just arrived in Perth WA from your vacation in Bali. You are on your way back home riding  in a classic stretched limo rented from Mandurah Limo Hire (they’re awesome) and someone calls you on your mobile to inform you about a breaking news story. It’s intriguing and you want to check it out yourself, what would you do? I’m guessing that it wouldn’t involve stopping at the nearest newsagent to pick up a copy of the paper, or waiting until 6pm for the news on TV. In fact, if you’re anything like me, you wouldn’t have to go anywhere or wait a moment – everything you need is right in your hand, accessible from your smartphone.

Isn’t this incredible? Let’s just take a moment to appreciate how far we’ve come, even in the past 20 years.

It’s really not that long ago that the only sources of news we had were TV (at scheduled times; not 24-hours), radio and newspapers. Websites were around, but barely, and the idea of being able to check the news from your preferred source anytime, anywhere, was probably not on anyone’s mind.

I don’t even make a habit of checking a news site regularly anymore, because I get a fair amount of news popping up on my Facebook news feed. I’m not oblivious to the dangers of this – Facebook filtering and the bias of my friends to name but two – but somehow I feel that this handful of news headlines keeps me on top of local and world issues.

It’s not just the way we read the news that has changed; journalism itself has been transformed – and continues to be – thanks to the ever-evolving technology that makes it easier to get access to remote areas and communicate information instantly across the globe.

The first satellite to transmit TV signals was launched in 1962, and by the 70s this technology made it possible to include live elements from across the globe in news shows. It wasn’t long before the downsides of live TV made themselves apparent though; seeing what’s going on real-time comes with a level of risk since nothing is censored. In 1986, thousands of school children in classrooms across America watched expectantly as NASA’s Challenger spacecraft was launched. One of the passengers – the first private citizen to fly to space – was a teacher. The craft exploded moments later, and there was no way for the children to ‘un-watch’ what they had just seen.

Nowadays we take it for granted that we can access live reporting from news events all over the world. If there is a hostage situation, we don’t hear about the outcome later that day, we follow it moment for moment – every ugly detail.

We’re also moving into an age where journalism no longer comes just from journalists. With so many people having the means to record and upload footage in seconds, citizen journalism often provides the most instant connection to breaking events. The 2007 Virginia college shooting massacre presented the first real glimpse of this, with students able to capture and broadcast what was going on long before any journalists arrived at the scene.

TV news stations now face a tough dilemma: if they report news stories as soon as they happen via social media, they provide the real-time reporting that people crave, but they provide less incentive for viewers to tune in to TV broadcasts. Is it possible that in another 20 years we will have done away with TV news channels and will be sourcing all our news from online sources? Only time will tell.