‘‘Legacy media stopped learning’’: Are news influencers taking over?

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News influencers

As people lose trust in traditional media publications, news influencers are stepping into the fore as popular sources of information.

The term ‘the news’ conjures images of middle-aged anchor men with polished accents reporting on complex matters of state. But a new generation are no longer consuming news the way their parents did, turning away from traditional media outlets to social media influencers.

But this hasn’t necessarily changed the desire for hard-hitting stories and serious journalism. The stereotype that young people are only interested in social media trends or fluff topics is unfounded, said The Shade Room’s political reporter Judith Nwandu.

“The audience is interested in politics as it pertains to their life. Young people aren’t adverse to hearing about politics, they want to know how their lives are going to be affected in the future.”

This lean towards a new way of consuming news is empowering young people to stay informed on current affairs without traditional media outlets. Yasir Khan, the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s editor-in-chief, believes this Gen Z disinterest started with an attitude problem among traditional media outlets.

“Legacy media hasn’t changed how it reports the news in 50-60 years,” said Yasir. “Legacy media organisations stopped learning a long time ago… they need to learn to adapt.”

Yasir Khan speaking at Web SummitYasir Khan attending a media roundtable at Web Summit 2021. Image: Diarmuid Greene/Web Summit (CC BY 2.0)

Yasir elaborated that part of this stagnation comes from an assumption that legacy media outlets know what the public needs and can deliver the message in the best way possible. Feeding into this is an apparent lack of awareness at the difficulty in achieving objectivity.

“One of the biggest things that hobbles legacy media is the delusion that we are objective. Objectivity goes out the window when you choose one story over another. What we should be aiming for is accuracy and fairness,” Yasir said.

And so what can news influencers offer that traditional media organisations can’t? A closer connection to their audience, a greater understanding of their following’s comparative experience. And, most importantly, an ear to the ground on what people want to hear about.

This is a point that Simone Oliver, global editor-in-chief of website Refinery29, said is a core part of their success, “listening is a big part of how we integrate ourselves into people’s lives.” Simone also noted that keeping the finger on the pulse of what people want to learn about helps to keep their organisation and the influencers they work with relevant.

News influencers, while perhaps not at the forefront of the media world, are part of the conversation – as long as people continue to see influencers with a similar perspective to them.

Main image: Daxiao Productions/Shutterstock

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