Social Media Killed The Printing Star

Video killed the radio star in the late seventies according to The Buggles, though maybe  we should start saying nineteen-seventies as we enter a roaring twenties of a new century. Now, we are on the verge of another death as social media makes it attack on print newspapers. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. Whatever your flavor, if not them all, social media has pushed past print since 2017,

as reported by the Pew Research Center, with one in five U.S. adults opting out for social media as their primary news source. 

Hold on to your “Okay, Boomer,” head shaking SMHs, teeth-sucking, or whatever brand of rebellious attitude each generation is known for. There is a consideration that all should have to this changing approach in how we get our news. How much will opinion go unchecked? Everyone is entitled to their opinion

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, and we all should know the saying about the fragrance of opinion, if not ask someone in a generation prior—it won’t take long, but does the shift from paper to digital create a no holds barred arena of unaccountability? Simply, are we leaving room for things to fall in between the cracks?

It is a difficult thing to remove bias, if bias can be truly removed. It is even more difficult to swallow one’s own bias and read through what the other side is saying, wholly and completely. Didn’t Sun Tzu’s Art of War say something like “know yourself and know your enemy?” In the age of social media, where people block, ghost, and, generally, ignore what they don’t want to hear, how can we be sure that we are getting the full story?

Stu Bykofsky has been writing columns for 32 years (as long as this writer has been alive) and has been in the journalism industry for over 60 years. A career that has been full of accomplishments—1995, Pulitzer Prize nomination, Daily News; 1999, Society of Professional Journalists Pa. state Spotlight Award; 1999, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2014 best column, Philadelphia Press Association; among many, many more accolades—check Wikipedia like we tell our professors we aren’t. Toss in a couple of books and a few low budget local films to round out the tally with applause, an acknowledgement of his credibility is most warranted.

Bykofsky calls himself a centrist, walking the path of the middle leaning left or right depending on the subject. A road that, in my opinion, only those who are willing to put in the work for their opinion walk. This path is littered with controversy; perhaps treasure depending on the reader. Stu is no stranger to the backlash of sharing his opinion with the masses; threatened with legal action eight times, sued three times, and five death threats. Stu has most certainly put in the work for his opinions. Whether it is good or bad, is left up for you to go out, read, and decide in alignment with your beliefs, but what it is above all is well-researched. A cascade of folders on the dining room table of his Center City high rise was evidence enough. 

“In all honesty, generally, you start with an opinion. People who just write opinion and don’t do the

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necessary research first are idiots because they are going to get trapped. They’re going to make mistakes.” 

Bykofsky would go on to clarify that you start with an opinion by way of curiosity. It is through the process of research that the opinion begins to form. A writer goes from being curious to having an opinion through the facts they uncover in their research. Facts that are then put to form and delivered in the most objective way. That’s the idea, right?

“As a columnist, if you evoke any emotion, you have won. The emotion can be anger. It can be sympathetic. It can be empathy. It can be jealousy. It can be hate. It can be love. If you make a reader feel something, you’ve won as a writer.”

Aristotle’s Rhetoric teaches us that ethos (ethics), pathos (emotion), and logos (logic) all play a part in winning over your audience. A fourth factor that seems to be rarely discussed is kairos (action), the place and time when something is said/written. The world of social media works in a strange bubble, created by the user, where emotions run high and ethics are toyed with.

A place where a bad article, or fake news, can be retweeted, shared, with vast numbers in moments. It would seem the only way to balance that is through logic, by way of research.

The discussion turned to the idea of the reader and what can be expected of them. In an age where validation is corrupted by instant gratification, it has to be recognized that all too many times people share articles that have been skimmed over, or retweeted by a celebrity and presented as fact. An age where social media runs on algorithms that emulate addiction, providing dopamine hits at the double tap of a heart. There is a cure, and that cure is research by both parties, writers and readers alike.             

Research. Research. Research. A fundamental skill in being a good writer, a

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necessary skill in being a good reader, and a fundamental skill in creating a better understanding of the world. Research and understanding are skills, like any other, that need to be practiced. Social media isn’t going anywhere, and is only growing. It is on us to approach it with keener senses. Don’t let your smartphone be smarter than you. Go out and read a magazine, newspaper, or book once in a while. Support local writers, artists, and the like with more than a smash on the like button. 

Print might be going out of style, but let’s work together to send it out in style—or better yet, let’s bring it back the way music and fashion have capitalized on the retro. Ask a boomer. #ChangeTheNarrative Retweet @LiteratureCanSaveTheWorld (not a real Twitter handle)

I’m a millennial, btw.

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