Nowadays, the media is shifting from its main mission of reporting the news the way they are to covering up stories and posting controversial stories. It has been argued that sensationalism attracts viewers and brings a massive audience.
Media sensationalism plays a trick on people’s emotions and triggers their interest to read or listen to such stories. Although sensationalism can be useful in the media and sometimes inevitable, the current state of sensationalism does more harm than good in our society and as such must be kicked against.
There has been an outcry for the media sensationalism to stop but it seems it has fallen on deaf ears, the media no longer care about what is true anymore because of personal gain at the expense of innocent masses.
Many are being misled by the information they get from the media and this could be bad for them if they did not find out the truth about the story even when they eventually find out, it is difficult to let go of the former information they have gotten.
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What Is Sensationalism?
According to Wikipedia In journalism and mass media, sensationalism is a type of editorial tactic. Events and topics in news stories are selected and worded to excite the greatest number of readers and viewers.
From the above, we can deduce the meaning of sensationalism. Essentially, sensationalism is an editorial bias mostly practiced in the mass media to overhype events and news topics, which oftentimes manipulates the truth of stories and, ultimately, contradicts the standards of professional journalism.
It is a way of presenting stories that provoke public interest and generate massive views at the expense of reliable and accurate news.
What is Media Sensationalism?
This is when the media makes trivial and controversial looks important at the expense of the important ones.
Most times journalists present stories that have no base, stories that cause defamation of character, which can cause a stir in the atmosphere which is likely not to be a good one.
Take for example a news outlet that can publish news about a case of an assault without verifying:the facts and this news are about a celebrity, this can cause big damage to the celebrity’s reputation.
If you’re covering a potentially scandalous story, you’ve first got to determine if the story is newsworthy, if the public has a need and a right to the information, if the story would seriously harm the people affected, and how readers will react to the information. All these should be taken cognizance of before such news is published.
Effects of Media Sensationalism
- Worry: what media sensationalism does is that it leaves people worried because they are not sure of what they have seen. Also, people are concerned with the news being watered to suit personal interests.
- Lose of interest: Media sensationalism makes people lose interest in the activities of the media outlets.
- Lack of Trust: When the media engages in sensationalism, people begin to have a loss of trust in them. When. trust starts diminishing. That’s a failure on the part of the media outlet.
- Loss of Credibility:Over the past decade, media sensationalism has become like a religious practice among media outlets. Because it has become a frequent practice, reporting has lost its value.
- Damage to one’s image: especially celebrities and top politicians who have come under the rot of the newsmen and women. When false stories about a particular person get published, the image of the person is tampered with and as such, that person comes under the criticism of the public.
- Limited viewing time or reading time: People no longer waste their time reading irrelevant news when media sensationalism is involved, as such these media outlets no longer get the required attention.
- Limitation of people’s awareness: Because people no longer get detailed and credible news, they would not be aware of what is going on around them.
- Information deficiency:Due to media sensationalism, information that flies around is filtered information. People no longer know which to believe or follow.
Examples of Media Sensationalism
There have been many cases of media sensationalism but I want to give practical illustrations of how it plays out.
Firstly, there was a case of a woman who was charged to court for the murder of her child, even before the court could hear her case the news has been published that the woman is a murderer, she is responsible for the death of her child.
Later on, the court found her innocent and freed her from every allegation against her but her image has already been tarnished by the media in the open.
Another incident is the case of a politician while in office he was accused of embezzlement. By the time he finished his tenure, he was charged to court and before the judge could pass his verdict, it was published everywhere that he stole money while in office. In the long run, he was cleared by the court of all allegations against him.
Reasons For Media Sensationalism
For every action that takes place, there is a motive for it, the same goes for the media engaging in sensationalism. Here are some reasons for media sensationalism;
- To be addictive: they make up stories so that when you tune in you will be glued to such a story regardless of whether you learn anything from it or not.
- Objective: their focus is to attract as many viewers as possible and make more money from them. Instead of posting or presenting the news in its raw state, they water it and package it in a way it will look inviting.
- Popularity: The battle for popularity is one root cause of media sensationalism. Of course, the media outlet gains popularity from the stories they publish, which means to still be relevant they have to resort to publishing exciting news content at the expense of accurate and reliable news.
- Social Trend: Media sensationalism is a new trend everyone wants to follow, no one wants to be left behind or remain backward. This is the reason many news outlets have been dishing out news and information that is not reliable.
Media Sensationalism The Way Forward
To every problem there is a solution to it, though media sensationalism is now the order of the day and false news flies around the place that withstanding, there is a way out.
- Standard regulations: there should be a standard regulation set to combat false and inaccurate information. If anyone goes against these regulations, such a person or news outlet can have their license revoked.
- Orientation/ Training of Journalists: there should be constant training and orientation of journalists to inculcate the true value of journalism into them, this enables them to carry out their assignments without being biased.
- Constant communication: No one should keep quiet about what is going on, whenever you see unreliable and inaccurate news make sure you take your time to condemn such news because it is untrue.
- The integrity of journalists’ work: As the main stakeholders in this process, media companies have a central role in promoting media integrity. They should be the main drivers of promoting integrity and transparency. Ultimately, the sustainability of journalism, especially investigative journalism, rests upon a reputation for integrity, ethical conduct, and credibility without which they can not carry out their assignment in the right manner.
- Independence: the independence of journalism is the beginning of credibility, and as such, they need to be given the room to operate freely without interference.
- Safety of journalists: the journalism profession is a delicate one, journalists are afraid of telling the truth because those involved will come after them. That is why they need the full backing of the government when dispatching their duties.
- Proper Funding: When these media houses and media outlets are being funded properly, there would be no need for all those unprofessional acts they engage themselves in, because they would have all the need to deliver accurately.
In conclusion, as you can see, sensationalism is difficult to pin down. That is why it’s easy for so many people to label the news media as being driven by sensationalism. Any journalist should commit to delivering factual, accurate stories every time. That’s the best way to defend your work against these claims.
At the end of the day, I think we have to realize that it is very hard to place total faith in television news and other news outlets. Because it competes with everything else in the same field or profession, they do everything in their power to grab the audience’s attention to stay on top.
That often comes at the expense of quality information, as news outlets either avoid topics that have substance or lack style, or they allow “sensational” reporting to cloud the ability to get and present valuable information.
It is a hard truth, but once you realize that, you will have a better understanding of how to approach watching and reading the news and how to filter quality information from all the information they put out there.