Sensationalism corrupts the real message

Mark Monroe
Opinion Staff Writer
mmonroe1@unca.edu

 

No news station or publisher survives without a strong readership, especially now with the advancements of online and social media. News constantly finds new ways to stay relevant in the digital age and producing content which captures the reader’s attention is necessary.

Producing eye-grabbing content causes a problem because more people pick it up to see something instantly gratifying rather than delving deeper and taking in the actual information.

Sensationalism sells.

Readers and viewers alike want to read a paper or watch a broadcast if something shocking or more relevant to society’s interests pops up immediately, forcing journalists to pander to the audience. This relationship takes a detrimental toll on the overall quality of news and stories where nobody wins except the paying readers who majorly influence the content.

Sometimes it takes a profound act or statement to get a message across. While it can be supporting a good cause it could draw journalists and viewers in for the wrong reasons. A message’s meaning can be lost at the up-front shock value sensational content. Encouraging people to pay attention is vital, yet it poses a problem of whether or not sensationalism is used merely to draw in a majority of otherwise apathetic readers to everyday news with little effort or to shine a light on a serious social issue through an intriguing article or video.

The coexistence between sensationalism and concrete journalism produces a mutually beneficial relationship which attracts a vast audience. A tactic with a lot of grey area to maneuver. However it is not limited to newspapers.

Online clickbait articles are a prime example. Short and enticing headlines pull readers into mundane articles simply to increase web traffic. While good for the website, this shortchanges readers and leaves them longing for more information. Websites intentionally use this to drag readers through hordes of clickbait articles to find the one article of any journalistic or factual merit, which only adds to their online traffic.

In news broadcasting more stories use filler content to bait viewers into staying around for the main story. Pushing the relevant issues to the end of the broadcast keeps them around long enough to sit through grueling waves of advertisements. The pursuit of money outweighs the need for factual and original content.

Racy content will peak the interest of many, increasing circulation, discussion and overall readership. Society benefits as do newspapers, websites and television stations because of the give and take nature of money and information, yet it is hard to put out something so controversial and defend it wholeheartedly because it walks a thin line between yellow journalism and actual journalism.

The dichotomy creates a problem of whether or not news should continue to stay true to factual journalism or crank out less factual, but easier to produce sensational pieces. Journalism benefits more from sensationalism rather than normal content in many ways due to the nature of society’s attraction to sex, violence and scandal. It comes down to taking the easy path or the hard but more virtuous one and I worry a majority of news outlets will start to take the former just to gain increased readership or revenue.

News loses credibility if it starts drifting too far into sensationalism, facts become overshadowed by vapid topics like what emoji represents your soul or or who would win in a fight between Donald Trump and a bear. While these articles would be entertaining to read or watch it needs to stay out of the sphere of news and journalism. The niche audiences for these kind of empty articles and parodies need to stay in magazines, online or on television so actual content relevant to the public is generated and not forced to sell out.

I worry because when I graduate next year and start working I do not want to deliver soft news just to make easy money. I want to deliver quality journalism without sacrificing my integrity. Yet I fear for the worst due to journalisms ever-increasing online presence and the decline of the human attention span.

 

7 thoughts on “Sensationalism corrupts the real message

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *