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Aardvark Daily

New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 24th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

Content copyright © 1995 - 2018 to Bruce Simpson (aka Aardvark), the logo was kindly created for Aardvark Daily by the folks at aardvark.co.uk



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The dawn of a new era in news?

3 April 2018

I've had a huge amount of email from around the world in the past few days.

Virtually all of those messages were from people concerned at the events that transpired with Mr Rod Vaughan and his microlight last week.

For those who have been living in a cave, Mr Vaughan claims that it "was probably a drone" that caused the windscreen on his microlight to "implode" with the result that the Foxbat A22 ended up on its roof in a paddock.

The story in and of itself is perhaps not remarkable. Microlights make forced landings all the time and rarely does this become world-wide news. However, in today's world where news organisations have gone from being proud, rich members of the Fourth Estate to one where they're all fighting for their very survival, the value of a story is measured by how much "eye-appeal" it has to the great unwashed.

Today, Joe Average has neither the time nor the appetite for those carefully and painstakingly researched feature pieces that were the hallmark of our news industry just a few short decades ago. The Watergate Affair would probably hardly rate today, in an age when the Daily Mail has become the most widely viewed online news source in the world.

So, instead of getting real news, we're being fed a diet of advertorial mixed with sensationalised hype -- but it appears that most people are just loving it.

After a long, hard day, toiling at some soul-destroying job in order to pay the ever rising mortgage and household bills, the average punter doesn't want to be further depressed by "real journalism", s/he wants to be entertained with lightweight fluffy content that is more "infotainment" than real news.

And THAT is why the DM is number-one.

However, there's a real down-side to this.

The first victim of this new sensationalist, tabloid news era has been the truth.

There was a time when you could believe what was written in the paper, broadcast on the radio and delivered via the screens of our televisions at 6pm. Sadly, this is no longer the case.

Boring old facts just don't attract the eyeballs they used to and those facts are incredibly expensive to obtain, research, investigate and verify. For this reason, virtually every commercial news service in the world has given up on the principles, ethics and standards which made the Fourth Estate the trustworthy symbol it once was.

Now, all we need is a suggestion that something has happened for it to be accepted as an irrefutable fact by the media, who then sensationalise it into a clickbait headline and several paragraphs of misinformation and supposition.

The Rod Vaughan "it was probably a drone", "accident waiting to happen" story is the perfect example of this.

No evidence, no proof, no independent verification -- just one guys presumptions and suddenly it's reported world-wide that a drone has caused a plane to crash.

Not one single arm of the commercial news media bothered to get a counterpoint on this story and not even the most ardent of junior reporters took the time to investigate and discover that Aeroprakt (the makers of the A22) actually had a batch of faulty door latches that were recalled on the 16th of last month.

So I'm wondering (as I do on occasion) whether it's time to call an end to this lunacy where we're fed fiction as fact by the media, and create our own news media that returns to the principles, ethics and standards that once made the Fourth Estate great.

Sure, there'd be no money in it from an advertising perspective -- but if it was ad-free then that'd be yet another bonus for the public.

How to fund it then...

Well I know that I already get more money from Patreon supporters than I get from YouTube's advertising so perhaps something similar could fund "The Real News" network and return some honesty to the world of reporting.

I really wish I had more time (and more money) to create just such a network. I've had the experience in building news networks before and I know there are people out there with the skills, experience and necessary high-standards who would also love to be involved so I'm sure it would fly.

So why haven't existing news media organisations done this?

Well for exactly the same reason that I was able to build the world's most widely syndicated web-based news network back in 1999 and CNN, BBC, etc couldn't. These organisations are too restricted by their history. They're too big to move quickly and too blinkered to look outside the box in which they've been operating all these years.

The creation of a "real news network" would require some seriously radical thinking and approaches to the collection, validation and publishing of news. I really don't think any of the existing players have the necessary mindset or the willingness to take the risks required to succeed.

It will be down to a completely new kid on the block who has nothing to lose and is prepared to open doors that the others didn't even know were there.

Could I do it?

I really think I could... but I'm already over-committed so it probably won't be me burning the midnight oil and inspiring an army of others to join me in rebuilding the entire news industry.

Let's hope however, that someone does... or we are all lost to the fluff, disinformation and agendas that currently masquerade as news.

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