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Slaves to sensationalism

News? It’s such a joke these days.

There was a time when broadcast media reported on, analyzed, and facilitated critical thinking. There was a time when reporters were serious journalists covering social, political, economic, religious, world issues of significance.

There was a time when one wore the journalist badge proudly.

With the pressure of rolling something — anything — out every minute in our 24/7 news cycle, not only has the quality of news reports declined, but the idea of what constitutes news has changed as well.

I recently watched Rann, a Hindi movie exploring the difference (?) between news and sensationalism. What they portrayed wasn’t any different from what we’re bombarded with in the guise of news every morning, afternoon, and night.

This morning I received an e-mail from Ragan News Stand with the blurb:

Have you heard about Donna Simpson? She’s a 600-pound New Jersey woman who’s all over cable news today. Why? She’s trying to gain 400 pounds! And she’s funding this diet with donations from her Web site. That’s right; people are paying to watch her eat. Cable news, says the Web site Mediaite, loves this story, because these networks are lazy. “Here’s a story with a light reporting load, but lots of eyeball-grabbing images and talking head fodder,” Mediaite’s Tommy Christopher wrote. Consider the Donna Simpson story — light reporting, lots of eyeball-grabbing images and talking head fodder — the next time you draft a pitch … to cable news, at least.

Is that what we’re reducing “news” to? Striking visuals, zero investigative reporting, and superficial, irrelevant stories — almost like mini-soap operas to entertain, not educate, us?

When I interned at a local TV station a couple of years ago and questioned why we chose to do a story on “tight stockings and its effects on women’s health” instead of one on “breakthrough cancer research,” I was told that’s what the viewers want to see!

Really?

Is this the kind of fluff we’re willing to accept in lieu of real problems that need to be addressed? Have we resigned to the media moguls telling us what news should be? If not, why don’t we, the viewers, voice our disgust?

Or, are we ok being entertained by television news, because our assumption is that the “real” stuff will be covered by print outlets anyway?

The media is supposed to be a reflection of who we are as a society — is this what we have become? Slaves to sensationalism?

Now, don’t go about tweeting this. It might just show up on CNN’s ego-surfing coverage on your telly!

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