Media Analysis: Questioning the Truth

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Over the years, mass media has been put under a microscope by historians, analysts and even journalists themselves claiming that the news has been incredibly distractible and inaccurate. As an attempt to actively be a productive member of society, I try to think critically about the news that I watch or read because news platforms are not simply credible and cannot be trusted; at least not blindly. There are many reasons that this generation should start challenging and critically questioning the truth and importance behind each news story that the mass media puts out on a daily basis. Among the many reasons, sensationalism is a huge contributor to the issues that we find in mass media.

Sensationalism is a specific style of delivering news to the public that journalists and news reporters utilize. It involves using emotions such as fear, anger, excitement and thrill to increase views and ratings, which ultimately leads to profits being maximized. There is no doubt that anyone and everyone who keeps up with the news has seen sensationalism all over the place. This is because of the fact that sensationalism goes back to the very beginning of when we learned to write and interpret symbols. In the book “Sensationalism and the New York Press,” the phenomenon of sensationalism is best told by John D. Stevens:

“About 4,000 years ago, when we learned to manipulate written symbols, we multiplied our tale-telling capacity… Because scandals fascinate nearly everyone, they epitomize news. When two British journalists set out to record a history of scandals, they decided a scandal fascinates us precisely because we love to see the hypocrite naked before us— the more respectable the victim, the juicier the gossip. ‘The public wants to be shocked in order to confirm its own sense of virtue,’ the British journalists decided, a view that sounds very much like what sociologists call deviance theory… We all glory in seeing the mighty fall.

There is nothing new about the allure of scandal. Oral tales and broad-sides of earlier times were even more sensational than todays supermarket tabloids. Audiences have always had an insatiable appetite for real or imagined accounts of disasters, murders, and scandals; perhaps as Mitchell Stephens suggests, because these interests are tied to a primitive need to be alert to potential threats and potential mates.”

John D. Stevens’ book helped me realize how old sensationalism in media really is. News headlines and front pages about celebrity relationships, political scandals and gruesome crimes that we see nowadays has been going on for generations of mass media. The profit that these kind of stories bring to media companies is the reason why the executives of media companies are not making a change to the way that news is being distributed; the numbers cannot simply be ignored.

A recent event that took over the media as “breaking news,” was the Royal wedding. It was on the front page of every newspaper, countless magazines went on for pages about the details and the major news channels talked about Prince Harry and Meghan Markle for days on end. As this event was being covered by all these media sources, I could not help but wonder why this one event from one part of the world effortlessly took over the media’s and the public’s undivided attention?

I felt overwhelming disgust as I could not ignore the fact that the media refused to speak on the terrible things that were happening in other parts of the world like the children dying in Palestine and Syria. The obsession with the Royal family has always been silly and the media outlets love it because of the boost in profit. My frustration with the media and its obsession with sensationalizing the Royal wedding is reflected in an article about the Russian Media criticizing the coverage of Prince Harry and Megan Markle’s wedding, written by Chris Pleasance for the DailyMail:

“The event was not watched in Russia after Channel One and Russia 24 refused to air it… The saturation and coverage unleashed a flood of agitation from the great unwashed, who took to Twitter to vent their frustration at the fact that they were being force-fed a celebration of the petrified leftovers of a bloody empire with a disgraceful history.”

It is definitely refreshing to see a media outlet (no matter from what country) resisting against the influence of the rest of the world’s. It was surprising to come across Pleasance’s article because the mainstream media as we know it today only cares about the ratings and profits instead of leaning towards considering a moral or ethical route to inform the public instead of indulge them.

Apart from the undeniable profit that media companies make due to sensational headlines and stories, sensational news does so well because it provides a sense of community within the public. Celebrities are seen as the sensation in most of the sensational news that we see in recent times because it seems like their lifestyles are so unattainable that perhaps the lens that the media provides, lets us forget about our own lifestyles for a few minutes while we read about them. The Kardashians are a perfect example of how the media uses them to make maximum profit because of how fascinated the public is with them.

No matter if it is hate or love for the infamous family, there is a whole community dedicated to them. Much like the Kardashians providing us with our fair share of sexual scandals and other shocking events, another staple of modern sensationalism is crime. Joy Wiltenburg wrote an article titled, True Crime: The Origins of Modern Sensationalism. In this following quote from her article, she talks about how the sensational news about crime helps the public comes together because of the commonality in their morals and beliefs:

“The discourses of sensationalism extend a public-private nexus far beyond the relationship between criminal and state, to encompass as wide an audience as possible. These representations of crime mark a unique point of intersection between structures of power and normative emotional demands—between public order and the interior of life of the individual. The sensationalist text uses emotional resonance to draw its audience, assuming a given emotional response. Of course, any emotions that sensationalism may succeed in arousing cannot be simply personal, though experienced by individuals: their very existence presumes a like-minded community, a group responding to a common appeal…”

The feeling that one gets from sharing the same feeling about something as someone else is comforting. This feeling can influence a consumer in ways like buying that newspaper again that made them feel that way, which eventually makes them loyal customers.

Media has always been a good thing to mankind. Without media, the world would not get the kind of widespread exposure that it provides. The viewpoints on any given subject are endless and media helps with sharing the differences which has resulted in awareness and understanding on a global level. The easiness of communicating is amazing because of how accessible it is to reach people in a wide variety. We can thank technological development for a platform that enables humans to share and display anything and everything about themselves with whoever wants to engage and be a part of a community that shares the same interests and even learn about differences. Reporting news in a time of crisis is no longer a job for a man and a horse because of how fast technology is now; when the attention of the public is needed for an emergency, it can be attained in a matter of seconds.

With all this positivity, also comes negativity. Media has to be looked at critically because of how widespread inaccuracies can be spread through problems like fake news and sensationalism. We should get our fixes of propaganda and gossip through sources like tabloids or social media: Twitter or Snapchat. Having only specific places to go to for unimportant news can eliminate the way that sensationalism is used to get the attention of the public; this way we can eliminate unnecessary attention-catching headlines in our attempt to keep ourselves informed about the things that actually matter and directly impacts us. Newspapers, like The New York Times, and news channels, like CNN should give the public the truth and only the truth in a direct way.

Cite this paper

Media Analysis: Questioning the Truth. (2021, Mar 20). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/media-analysis-questioning-the-truth/

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