What Are Some Disadvantages of Electronic Media?

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Electronic media, and in particular the use of social media to report news events, has a number of potential pitfalls. Information spreads quickly, but so does misinformation. A misreported story can spread faster than its corrections. In addition the plethora of new news sources available online makes it difficult to detect biases that might affect the quality of the coverage.

The sheer signal-to-noise ratio of electronic media can be one of its biggest drawbacks. With blogs and private websites reporting on news stories, the first page of search results about a given topic may all often stem from private individuals whose veracity may be completely unknown to a casual searcher. It can be difficult to judge whether or not any particular source is authoritative enough to trust, and those who tailor their coverage to support a particular ideological spin on a story may be seen as equally valid as those who present a balanced news report.

Misinformation is another major problem with online reporting. After the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013, online investigators named a student who had disappeared from his home the previous month, citing some curious social media messages posted by his family. In the end, he turned out to be innocent of the crime, but he was only cleared after the real suspects were named and after his family suffered considerable stress from the resulting public attention.