Media outlets are often accused of sensationalism in today's news coverage. News Reporters are criticized for exaggerating the facts in the name of more TRP or more newspaper subscriptions. Online journalists are accused of writing "clickbait “headlines to boost advertising sales.
The Oxford Dictionary definition of sensationalism is, especially in journalism, “the use of exciting or shocking stories or language at the expense of accuracy, to provoke public interest or excitement.”
Back in the time when people use to think about media and reporters a sense of reverence use to come in hearts, it used to be a highly respected profession but down the lane of time, it has led to its downfall and lost its essence.
If I may speak about this change in technical terms then its “Yellow Journalism” that is what I am talking about. Yellow Journalism or the yellow press is a type of journalism that presents little or no legitimate well- researched news and instead use eye catching headlines to sell more newspapers. Techniques may include exaggeration of news event scandal-mongering or sensationalism.
Now I think ‘circus would be an apt word to use because journalism has become a mockery or I should say has made into a mockery by some.
The recent death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput has once again highlighted the dramatic, unauthentic, and shamelesslysensationalizing of sensitive subjects byIndian media. The thumbnails and titles of the cover story were enough to conclude how dumb and ruthless some of the media channels can be. Half of them even gave the verdict without and trial by court.
You might switch on the Television and have a look at prime time news you will be stunned how the reporting is going on.
The majority of the time its noise rather than substance, pointing fingers is not something new in media. We have seen this in case of communal incidents in India where the anchors leave no stone in their path unturned to give the incident some cinematic angle and touches. Name the issue and the media reporters/anchors will be on their toes tocreate hysteria, if it’s war newsthey will set up a background of battlefields and borders, if it’s a piece of religious news they will talk like a Sadhu. They would do everything they can but, report facts.
There are chunks of population who still opt for news on Television and the majority of them are not media literate hence it is very important to deliver the right news in the right format. A media student has always been taught to keep sensitivity before sensationalism but when we look around for examples there are hardly any.
Is it only exclusive to India?
Crime today is portrayed by both the news media and entertainment programs, and content seems to be getting progressively more gruesome and sensational. Audiences have been fascinated by the depiction of crime for ages, and there are many television shows today that reflect this. So if we see the reporting in its entirety then we will realize that sensationalism is not something exclusive to a particular country’s media, but it can be found almost everywhere but one thing I would like to mention, it has been observed that western media doesn’t create as much hype or drama when it comes to reporting. A recent example can be coverage of George Floyd Death, there for sensitivity in reporting.
“Do alternative forms of media—social media and digital media— any better than the mainstream media?”
Coverage over the internet and social media feeds, myths, misinformation and sensational headlines are proliferating. Everyone is trying to become an opinion leader and to cater more subscribers and likes they put eye catching headlines and thumbnails. With every new twist and turn in a story a new envelope of information is released and fed to people with a sort of screenplay that diverse from actually passing the details carefully.
Reporters and newsroom managers need to develop a gut instinct for setting limits in promoting coverage. If you have a legitimate, exclusive news story that no one else has, there's no harm in advertising that fact. But when words like "exclusive" are overused on mundane, daily news stories, they lose their value. As viewers we should not watch such kind of news and also guide others to distinguishing between good and dummy sources of news.
Moreover, the main objective of news media is to create awareness and bring upon change as a part of civil society and not to maximize profit at the cost of good journalism.
By: Priya Baldwa