Politics & Pop culture

perspectives on current issues in politics, pop culture etc.

stop the sensationalism!

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I have become so frustrated with mainstream media and its obsession with sensationalism in place of true journalism. It is unfortunate how news sources ranging from the more reputable ones like CNN, Newsweek and NY Times to the publications that are more slanderous (OK!, NY Post etc.) target a significant portion of their headline news towards Britney Spears, her kids, her shopping habits, who knows? who cares?! Apparently a lot of people care, and apparently this is the kind of “news” that sells newspapers and online subscriptions to magazines and websites. I mean, People Magazine is one of the top ranked weekly publications out there. Is that what most of America really cares about? Is the media going after what we want? Or are they prescribing what they think we need?

It is not just who the media cover, its the culture they have created by focusing stories on something as inane as the everyday minutiae of celebrity lives. Updates on everything a celebrity does or picking away at a fact until it becomes fantasy. Then there is the obsessive commentary, hours of wasted footage in place of real news stories. Does anyone recall the Natalie Holloway story? What happened to her did deserve media attention. However, instead of concise, direct coverage of the investigation, it became a media circus, for lack of a better term. I mean you could not turn CNN on without fear that Nancy Grace would be on screen hypothesizing about what could have happened. Why don’t television journalists like to wait for the facts? Perhaps its not journalists I should be targeting, maybe its TV personalities, I’m not certain. What I do know is that instead of reporting facts, Nancy Grace was constantly interviewing anyone and everyone related to this girl’s family. It was callous, tacky and not news.

And have we learned? Sadly, we have not….

The news media continues to exploit stories like Heath Ledger’s accidental death or Jamie Lynn’s unexpected teen pregnancy… A man died… a child is pregnant… but, thats not what people see, hear or report… Instead every single magazine, newspaper, website carries some version of a distorted tale. The strange machinations that result after eight or ten iterations of the press, bear no resemblance from the original or “true” story… It is truly all about sensationalism.

Whats worse is that it doesn’t stop with celebrity journalism, the 2008 Presidential Election is a prime example of a media circus. Granted, the two leading Democratic candidates (Obama and Clinton) are providing the media a lot of political fodder by digging into one another as Democrats and Republicans do general elections. However, this is not helped by the incessant analysis of every word, gesture, tear (or lack thereof…) If I hear the phrase “the best political team on television” one more time, I’ll lose it. Don’t the political pundits tire of hearing themselves repeating the same 12 – 15 lines? It would be refreshing to hear someone ask them about a substantive issue rather than obsess over whether Obama jilted Clinton during the State of the Union… I don’t really need four to ten political pundits weighing in on “what it might have meant for the campaign…”

My point is, from television to magazines: don’t the news media have a responsibility to their viewers/readers/listeners?

Yeah, I know what you are thinking, I am idealistic, or naive, or perhaps both. I do understand that news media needs to identify the conflict in any story, even when there isn’t much of one to report. I realize that reporting facts without framing them would draw less viewers etc. I suppose I am in the school of thought that feels the news media has a responsibility to the people who utilize their service. This responsibility is to use air-time/print room wisely so that citizens can be informed (as objectively as possible) on different topics… I think news should be like any other service – we demand, we pay, they deliver.

Of course, there is something I need to consider – perhaps the demand is skewed towards sensationalism. Perhaps people would rather have their celebrity newsstand headlines being read off by their nightly cable news anchors, perhaps I am in the minority. (I suspect that I am…) However, I do believe that there is a large subset of the American public who will sigh relief when Britney, Paris etc. don’t make it to the top 10 news stories….

Perhaps I expect most from the television news networks… What about international issues that concern us? Do people recall that there are two significant wars that the US forces are engaged in? Reporting crimes is important, but what about civil injustices or discussions about education and healthcare that transcend the current political climate?

I suppose thats what I would call “real news.”

(For those of you reading, there will be more on this topic, think of this as a teaser for future posts. I welcome all of your comments.)


Written by Veena

March 20, 2008 at 7:13 am

Posted in real news

Tagged with , ,

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