Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Sensationalist Journalism

Location of the United StatesImage via Wikipedia Yet another sensationalist piece in the news prompted me to write this post. I am from the ‘old school’ journalism sect. I was taught to stick with facts that are carefully checked out. I was taught that truth was imperative, and any misleading or false statement would not only open the door for a lawsuit due to libel, but it would lead to a prompt dismissal.

Things have changed dramatically. With the inception of the internet came an onslaught of competitors to the world of print and broadcast media. Also with the internet came the increasingly difficult challenge to beat the competitors to the punch with headlines – leaving little or no time to check facts. The ‘be first’ fever spread, and now it is virtually impossible to find one news outlet of any kind that does not indulge in sensationalism.

Headlines that are misleading or downright false are the mainstay in American journalism. It is all about getting the clicks – getting the readers, with no regard for fact or truth. This is just one aspect of sensationalist journalism.

Another aspect of sensationalist journalism is including ‘dirt’ in stories that has no relevance to the main subject of the story. Again, the point is to get the clicks – to get the readers – to be ‘first’ to reveal some juicy tidbit, no matter how irrelevant or damaging to others.

There is no respect shown for anyone in America. No longer are celebrities and politicians the only ones subject to having reporters camped outside their home, being followed (i.e. stalked), being photographed at will, and having sensitive private information publicly revealed in print or broadcast online.

No longer is sensationalist journalism limited to tabloids - many once respectable news sources are now guilty of it as well. A BBC, Reuters,and Media Center sponsored 10-country poll taken in 2006 shows that the American public overwhelmingly does not trust the media. The lines between fictional creative writing and news reporting have become increasingly blurred.

Want to read more articles and polls about the distrust of the media? Try Mondo Times.

Enticing headlines and articles take real talent to create. However, they can be created without lowering oneself into the murky world of sensationalism. Fact checking and ethics in journalism are the true mark of a professional.

It is up to you which road you choose.

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