There has been a disturbing trend which is the issue of media sensationalism. The value of true Journalism is in the credible and reliable information they publish. The big question is, are they Living up to expectations?
That’s the question every journalist needs to answer. Nowadays, people no longer know which news or information to believe because of the overwatered nature of the information. Professional integrity is the cornerstone of a journalist’s credibility.
The Radio Television Digital News Association, an organization exclusively centered on electronic journalism, has a code of ethics centering on public trust, truthfulness, fairness, integrity, independence, and accountability.
It’s a pity that there has been some infiltration in the journalism sector because journalists don’t have the free will to publish information as it is due to certain restrictions.
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What is Media Sensationalism
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.
It is also a situation whereby stories are presented in a way that will excite or provoke public interest rather than the truth. Every media personality has what it takes to present news in the original state or compromise to filtering of information thereby publishing it in a way it will suit the parties involved.
The Oxford Dictionary’s definition of sensationalism is, especially in journalism, “the use of exciting or shocking stories or language at the expense of accuracy, to provoke public interest or excitement.”
Causes of Media Sensationalism
There is no smoke without fire therefore the issue of media sensationalism has been studied and here are some root causes.
- Competitive Nature of The Media Industry: The industry is very competitive with every news outlet seeking to gain the attention of viewers and they feel the only way they can make more people view their publications is to manipulate their minds and make them believe that what they put out there is the truth. Unfortunately, more people love being told lies than hearing the truth. Also, when there is such high competition in the industry, they would need to keep up with the trend, and as such, they engage in whatever will keep them up there.
You may say this is a valid reason for them to do what they do but what happens to those that are being misled by such untrue information?
- Monetary Value: Is said that fake and untrue news spreads like a wildfire which is easy to start and hard to stop, and you cannot ascertain the level of destruction or the level of damage done.
When stories that excite are put out there it tends to generate views and reactions from the readers or viewers which in turn generates more income.
Who doesn’t like to make more money? Of course, no one that’s why most news outlets capitalize on the opportunity to make money.
- The viewer’s Interest: Nowadays, people tend to believe more lies than the truth. It’s so unfortunate that people have become used to the unreliable stories that fly around. Having seen the way it is, most media outlets see it now as a norm and continue to do the wrong thing by publishing filtered information.
The Effects of Media Sensationalism
- Lose of Respect for media:The media has been criticized on multiple accounts in the last few years due to the amount of bias that can be found within reporting. This also greatly contributes to sensationalist news, with the increasing skepticism about what is beneficial or what is truthful news, the media has slowly been losing its respect. Overall respect for any form of media has fallen greatly simply because of the use of sensationalism, which can be seen as demeaning to the industry.
- Ignorance: Most people are not aware of the difference between an average story and the real content story. When the facts of a story are exaggerated for that particular newspaper or television station to receive a better rating, the public can find it difficult to understand the reality of what was covered which gives them the advantage to exploit the viewers, readers, and listeners the most. This is the reason why people should be careful to consider the news that is read every day is accurate beyond a reasonable doubt.
- Affects the reader’s psychology: Wrong information sends the wrong signal to the mind and once this signal gets to the brain it is hard to erase. Most often the negative part of an event always has a way of getting to us, there is a way it makes us feel. We find it hard to forget and even when the truth surfaces it will be difficult to accept.
- Leads to Controversy: The information that is being put out nowadays can be misleading and as such the real stories are not published. As the saying “nothing is hidden under” the truth must come out one day. When this truth eventually surfaces it will cause a big stir and this wouldn’t be a nice sight to behold, people would be confused and would no longer know what to believe, people would have different opinions and different ideologies to issue which will, in turn, lead to chaos in the society.
- Stigmatization: When stories that are not true pop up it causes a kind of uncertainty in the atmosphere, and people begin to see those involved differently, for example, a story of rape may be published even before a proper investigation is done. People don’t know how this incident happened but they immediately pass judgment because of what they have read or seen. Even when such a person is found innocent and is cleared of every allegation, in people’s minds he is a rapist, and there is nothing you can do that would change their perception.
Possible Solutions To Media Sensationalism
Although media sensationalism has done more harm than good, there is still a way out only if those involved would adhere. Here are some solutions to the problem of media sensationalism;
- Trustworthiness: What makes a news outlet trustworthy is its reporting of facts that are true to the event and providing the people with the correct information to tell the story of an event without any exaggeration.
- Independence of media outlets: Media outlets should be independent of external interference and must be allowed to publish credible and reliable information that people can use. The media is a linking bridge between the people and hidden information and as such, they are to be allowed to carry out their duties without interference.
- Education of Reporters: Reporters should always be educated on the ethics of the profession and what it entails and how to carry out their duties responsibly without giving out misleading information.
In conclusion, Overall respect for any form of media has fallen greatly simply because of the use of sensationalism, which can be seen as demeaning to the industry.
Next time a headline or story catches your eye when you’re reading the news, take a moment to think about if that piece of news was impacted by sensationalism or bias.
If it does, you might feel betrayed that a story you were genuinely interested in was misleading and not entirely true to the actual event.
Sensationalist news impacts our lives every day without many even realizing it, but in reality, this practice is hurtful not just to the journalism industry but also to the public. Do yourself a favor by finding out the truth behind every story so that you would not be misled.