MEDIA SENSATIONALISM 7
Media sensationalism involves the misrepresentation of facts tocreate hype in a certain story (Gurun & Butler, 2012). It mayalso involve putting too much focus on the issues that do not affectthe masses directly. The media is a very powerful tool that caninfluence public opinion. Any misrepresentation of facts would leadto dire consequences. It is common knowledge that the media is abusiness like any other, but that does not give it the right to throwethics to the dogs. Whenever the media creates hype over a non-issue,it attracts many viewers, listeners or readers, thereby increasingtheir advertisement rates (Gurun & Butler, 2012). All this hypeis created at the expense of real issues that affect the masses. Therole of the media is to educate, inform, entertain and investigate.However, the current crop of media houses only aims at making moreprofit. This essay addresses the problem of media sensationalism andoffers some solutions at the end.
In the recent past, the media has been under sharp criticism in whatsome people believed is the biased reporting of events to misleadpublic perception (Rustad, 2011). For instance, the American mediaspends more time on the Miley Cyrus antics than it does on realissues that affect the masses. It is quite common to find the mediafocusing on what the socialites are up to even when they are doingnothing newsworthy. Recently, the public woke up to the news thatCharlie Sheen was HIV positive. Every media house wanted the chanceto interview him. 60% of the news was all about how Charlie Sheen leda promiscuous life and the shocking number of men and women he hashad sexual intercourse with.
At the same time, the Turkish government was committing seriousviolations of human rights against its citizens. Such a newsworthytopic only made it to less than 10% of the media outlets. It is sadthat today’s media houses are more concerned with Donald Trump’sutterances than his manifesto for America.
The media is also fond of over- emphasis on small matters to makethem look enormous. Such tricks only work to instill fear among thepeople instead of informing them. Rustad (2011) gives the example ofmedia reporting regarding celebrity suicide. Suicide is a commonoccurrence in the USA. However, after a celebrity does it, the nextfew days will be a series of reports regarding more suicides indifferent parts of the country. The gullible citizens will then thinkthere is a sudden upsurge in the rate of suicide in the USA. Peoplethat had been contemplating suicide will finally have a reason toactualize their plans. In reality, there is no upsurge in the levelsof suicide in the country. Suicide is a common occurrence only thatthe media decided to focus on it due to the hype created by theinitial suicide of the celebrity.
One pauses to wonder whether the problem lies with the media or theconsumers of the information (Robertson &Wortzel, 1978). If themedia indulges in such malpractices and gets away with them, then itmeans that the public is fond of nonissue -based news topics. Themedia being a business entity, it only provides what its clients lovemost (Robertson &Wortzel, 1978). From the prevailing statistics,it seems more Americans are interested in hyped news than issue-based news that affects the masses. Otherwise, the media would havechanged tact and decided to offer issue- based news.
In retrospect, it could be that people fall in love with hyped newsbecause they do not really know the characteristics of relevant newstopics. It is the case of children growing in a society where themedia sensationalizes the news to make it look relevant. All theirlife, the children growing up in such an environment believe that theonly important news is the one that has hype. No matter theexplanation, the situation boils down to one thing- we need to doaway with media sensationalism. The unethical practice is making themasses dumber and ignorant.
The one solution to media sensationalism is to reducemiscommunication and change the public perception of what passes fornewsworthy. According to Hannan (2015), the media feeds the masseswith the wrong information especially when reporting on health risks.The writer gives the example of cardiovascular diseases. The mediadistorts and (or) omits scientific findings to raise an alarm thatcreates worries in people that are already suffering from thedisease.
The writers suggest the creation of a special group of scientificjournalists and certify them the same way meteorological journalistsare certified. The main reason for miscommunication is because thepublic relies on individuals with little or no scientific knowledgeto interpret scientific findings for them. Worse still, thejournalists that report on scientific research do not bother toconsult with experts before unveiling the information to the public.Instead, they opt to use their high school understanding of Biologyto interpret and analyze scientific information.
Stewart and Pavlou (2002) suggest the involvement of professionals tocurb the rising cases of miscommunication. The duo suggests thecreation of a panel of specialists to interpret technical terms. Ifthe media reports about a new piece of legislation, it is onlyprofessional that they invite a law expert to give more insight onthe matter.
It is wrong for the media personnel to rely on their generalunderstanding of the law to present contentious legal clauses to themasses. The misleading reports create unnecessary panic in themasses. Sometimes, the media may change the headlines of technicalnews subjects to make them appear relevant to the masses, therebycreating sensational moments. To solve this, the legislature shouldstart making laws or regulations that will make sure that the mediacompanies are responsible. This can make the people that are foundmisrepresenting information to face prosecution or justice.
The public’s craze regarding sensationalized news is simplyappalling. It will take much effort for the public to discover thatwhat the media houses feed them is not real news. According toCaulfield and Bubela (2004), the government and other stakeholdersneed to come up with a program that will educate the masses on whatis supposed to be newsworthy. Maybe the government could introduce atopic regarding media sensationalism in the school curriculum.Surprisingly, many children grow to be adults without knowing thatthe media sometimes exaggerates stories to improve ratings. Suchchildren grow up believing that everything the media reports isgospel true and accurate.
To solve this, a subject in the school curriculum that teaches thechildren what is important and what is not should be introduced. Sucha subject will help reduce the number of people that are in love withsensationalized news. When kids learn that controversial issuesregarding Miley Cyrus are not real news, the next generation ofadults will be able to reject media sensationalism.
It is true that the public like controversy and other forms of mediasensationalism however, there is a portion of citizens who are indire need of relevant news (Gurun& Butler 2012). Unfortunately,this proportion of the masses does not have a credible media outletthat addresses real issues with accuracy. The current media is allabout controversy and celebrity antics (Gurun& Butler 2012). Suchpeople wish there was a media outlet that addresses real issues.
Since media sensationalism basks under the pretext of media freedom,the government and other non- profit organizations can establish realmedia houses. The credible outlets should address issues in black andwhite. They will not be after making profits or improving ratings. Ofcourse, the consumers will be few, but it will be a step in the rightdirection. Sooner, the public shall realize that the boring issuesare the real news. After a few generations, people would have got ataste of what real news looks like and they will be in a position toshun media sensationalism.
In conclusion, media sensationalism is wrong because it disfiguresfacts and makes the masses gullible. It also casts more light ontrivial matters, overshadowing the real issues in the process. Italso creates unnecessary panic in the people. The one solution tomedia sensationalism is to curb miscommunication and change thepublic perception of real issues. The media fills the people withpropaganda and lies yet they do not face any repercussions. Thepublic does not have an idea of the real issues that need addressing.
Caulfield, T., &Bubela, T. (2004). Media Representations ofGenetic Discoveries: Hype in the Headlines? Health Law Review,12(53-61).
Gurun, U., & Butler, A. (2012). Don`t Believe the Hype: LocalMedia Slant, Local Advertising, and Firm Value. The Journal ofFinance, 67(2), 561-598.
Hannan, E. (2015). The Public Reporting Risk of Performing High-RiskProcedures : Perception or Reality? JACC: CardiovascularInterventions, 2014, 17-19. Retrieved From,<http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jcin>
Robertson, T., &Wortzel, L. (1978). Consumer Behavior and HealthCare Change: The Role of Mass Media. Advances in ConsumerResearch, 525-527.
Rustad, H. (2011). Sensible versus sensational reporting. TheHalifax Commoner, 18 (24), 3-3.
Stewart, D., &Pavlou, P. (2002). From Consumer Response to ActiveConsumer: Measuring the Effectiveness of Interactive Media. Journalof the Academy of Marketing Science, 376-396