In The Discourse of News Values we analysed news values in news items that originate with ‘heritage’ news organisations and that are ‘most shared’ by Facebook users (viral news). In the age of new and social media, clickability, likeability, and shareability have become crucial considerations. (These are not considered as news values in our book, since we use the term in a more narrow and specific sense. Analysing newsworthiness is different from analysing the attributes of shared stories or asking what makes this shareable or ‘shareworthy’?). One reason why shared news is so important is that widely shared news may attract traffic to a news organisation’s website (although new technologies aim to keep audiences on the social media platform). Page views in turn mean money for a news organisation.
In Chapters 8 and 10 we identified some troubling findings that arose from our analysis, including the type of research news that is widely shared and how the social media may impact on the news agenda. Another potentially troubling finding, which we did not mention in our book, concerns the virality of fake or hoax news. According to Crawford, Hunter and Filipovic (2015) there has been a deluge of fake news since 2014, with the emergence of a new industry which aims to design fake items to be shared on Facebook, and such stories are indeed frequently successful at going viral. The potential influence of hoax news on the 2016 US presidential election outcome has been much commented upon and Facebook has been criticised for not doing enough to prevent such items from spreading (Reuters/ABC 2016). Indeed, at least one of the news items in our own analysed dataset (‘Historian believes bodies of 800 babies, long-dead, are in a tank at Irish home for unwed mothers’) was identified as containing inaccuracies (Walsh 2014). The discursive news values analysis in our book did not consider the veracity of ‘most shared’ news items but rather focussed on news values. It would, however, be a worthwhile endeavour to consider the percentage of viral news that can be classified as fake/hoax news. And just like we analysed news values in ‘most shared’ news in our book, a future research project could focus on analysing news values in ‘fake/hoax’ news to provide further insights into this worrying phenomenon.
Crawford, H., Hunter, A. and Filipovic, D. (2015) All your Friends Like this: How Social Networks Took over News. Sydney: HarperCollins.
Reuters/ABC 2016, ‘Facebook to introduce tools to combat fake news’. ABC (online), 16 December 2016, 8:51am, available at: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-12-16/facebook-announces-fake-news-reporting-tools/8126186 [accessed 2 January 2017].
Walsh, J. (2014). ‘That story about Irish babies buried in a septic tank was shocking. It also wasn’t entirely true’. New Republic, 24 June 2014, available at: https://newrepublic.com/article/118316/800-irish-babies-buried-septic-tank-was-partly-bogus-story [accessed 2 January 2017].
Caple, H. and Bednarek, M. (2017) ‘DNVA, shareability, viral news and fake news’. Discursive News Values Analysis (DNVA). http://www.newsvaluesanalysis.com/our-book/extensions/dnva-and-viral-news/