sensationalism
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250px, American cartoon, published in 1898: ''"Remember the Maine! And Don't Forget the Starving Cubans!"'' Such sensationalist cartoons were used to support American intervention in the Cuban War of Independence. In
journalism Journalism is the production and distribution of reports on the interaction of events, facts, ideas, and people that are the "news of the day" and that informs society to at least some degree. The word applies to the journalist, occupation (pro ...

journalism
and
mass media Mass media refers to a diverse array of media Media may refer to: Physical means Communication * Media (communication), tools used to deliver information or data ** Advertising media, various media, content, buying and placement for ...
, sensationalism is a type of
editorial An editorial, leading article (US) or leader (UK), is an article written by the senior editorial people or publisher of a newspaper, magazine, or any other written document, often unsigned. Australian and major United States newspapers, such as ...
tactic. Events and topics in
news News is information about current events. This may be provided through many different Media (communication), media: word of mouth, printing, postal systems, broadcasting, electronic communication, or through the testimony of observers and wi ...

news
stories are selected and worded to excite the greatest number of readers and viewers. This style of news reporting encourages
biased Bias is an inclination toward something, or a predisposition, partiality, prejudice, preference, or predilection. Bias may also refer to: Social sciences * Confirmation bias, tendency of people to favor information that confirm their beliefs ...
or emotionally loaded impressions of events rather than neutrality, and may cause a
manipulation Manipulation may refer to: As underhand influence *Psychological manipulation **Crowd manipulation *Data manipulation *Media manipulation *Internet manipulation *Market manipulation In a physical context *Card manipulation *Coin manipulation *Hat ...
to the truth of a story."Issue Area: Sensationalism."
Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) is a Media studies, media critique organization based in New York City. The organization was founded in 1986 by Jeff Cohen (media critic), Jeff Cohen and Martin A. Lee. FAIR describes itself as "the national ...
. Accessed June 2011.
Sensationalism may rely on reports about generally insignificant matters and portray them as a major influence on society, or biased presentations of newsworthy topics, in a trivial, or
tabloid Tabloid may refer to: * Tabloid journalism, a type of journalism * Tabloid (newspaper format), a newspaper with compact page size ** Chinese tabloid * Tabloid (paper size), a North American paper size * Tabloid (film), ''Tabloid'' (film), a 2010 d ...
manner, contrary to general assumptions of professional
journalistic standards Journalistic ethics and standards comprise principles of ethics Ethics or moral philosophy is a branch of philosophy that "involves systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of right and wrong action (philosophy), behavior".''Internet ...
. Some tactics include being deliberately obtuse, appealing to emotions,"Sensationalism."Thefreedictionary.com
Accessed June 2011.
being
controversial Controversy is a state of prolonged public dispute or debate, usually concerning a matter of conflicting opinion or point of view. The word was coined from the Latin ''controversia'', as a composite of ''controversus'' – "turned in an opposite di ...
, intentionally omitting facts and
information Information is processed, organised and structured data. It provides context for data and enables decision making process. For example, a single customer’s sale at a restaurant is data – this becomes information when the business is able ...
,"Issue Area: Narrow Range of Debate."Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting
Accessed June 2011.
being loud and self-centered, and acting to obtain attention. Trivial information and events are sometimes misrepresented and exaggerated as important or significant, and often include stories about the actions of individuals and small groups of people, the
content Content or contents may refer to: Media * Content (media), information or experience provided to audience or end-users by publishers or media producers ** Content industry, an umbrella term that encompasses companies owning and providing mass m ...
of which is often insignificant and irrelevant to the macro-level day-to-day events occurring globally.


History

In ''A History of News'', author Mitchell Stephens (professor of
journalism Journalism is the production and distribution of reports on the interaction of events, facts, ideas, and people that are the "news of the day" and that informs society to at least some degree. The word applies to the journalist, occupation (pro ...

journalism
and
mass communication Mass communication is the process of imparting and exchanging information Information can be thought of as the resolution of uncertainty; it answers the question of "What an entity is" and thus defines both its essence and the nature of it ...
at
New York University New York University (NYU) is a private Private or privates may refer to: Music * "In Private "In Private" was the third single in a row to be a charting success for United Kingdom, British singer Dusty Springfield, after an absence of nea ...
) notes sensationalism can be found in the
Ancient Roman In historiography Historiography is the study of the methods of historian ( 484– 425 BC) was a Greek historian who lived in the 5th century BC and one of the earliest historians whose work survives. A historian is a person who studi ...
'' Acta Diurna'' (official notices and announcements which were presented daily on public message boards, the perceived content of which spread with enthusiasm in
illiterate Literacy is popularly understood as an ability to read and write in at least one method of writing, an understanding reflected by mainstream dictionaries. Correspondingly, the term ''illiteracy'' is considered to be the inability to read an ...
societies). Sensationalism was used in books of the 16th and 17th century, to teach
moral A moral (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman ...

moral
lessons (1884). Image:Falconry lesson.jpg, 225px, Falconry lesson A lesson or class is a structured period of time where learning is intended to occur. It involves one or more students (also called pupils or learners in some circumstances) being taught ...

lessons
. According to Stevens, sensationalism brought the news to a new audience when it became aimed at the lower class, who had less of a need to accurately understand
politics Politics (from , ) is the set of activities that are associated with making decisions in groups, or other forms of power relations between individuals, such as the distribution of resources or status. The branch of social science that stu ...

politics
and the
economy An economy (; ) is an area of the Production (economics), production, Distribution (economics), distribution and trade, as well as Consumption (economics), consumption of Goods (economics), goods and Service (economics), services by different a ...

economy
, to occupy them in other matters. Through sensationalism, he claims, the audience was further educated and encouraged to take more interest in the news. The more modern forms of sensationalism developed in the course of the nineteenth century in parallel with the expansion of print culture in industrialized nations. A genre of British literature, "sensation novels," became in the 1860s the best example of how the publishing industry could capitalize on a rhetoric made of surprising turns in the narrative to market serialized fiction in the expanded market of the periodical press. The London magazine "Belgravia", which was edited by the popular author of sensation novels Mary Elizabeth Braddon between 1867 and 1876, offered one of the earliest theories of modernity and its “shock value” mediated by sensationalism. The attention-grasping rhetorical techniques found in sensation fiction were also employed in articles on science, modern technology, finance, and in historical accounts of contemporary events, as discussed by Alberto Gabriele in ''Reading Popular Culture in Victorian Print''. The collection of essays ''Sensationalism and the Genealogy of Modernity: a Global Nineteenth Century Perspective'' edited by Alberto Gabriele is also helpful to track the transhistorical presence of sensationalism in several national contexts in the course of the long nineteenth century. Scholars in the collection engage in an interdisciplinary discussion on popular culture, literature, performance, art history, theory, pre-cinema and early cinema.


In mass media

In the late 1800s, falling costs in paper production and rising revenues in advertising in the U.S. led to a drastic rise in newspaper's circulation, which attracted the growing audiences that advertisers desired. One presumed goal of sensational reporting is to increase or sustain viewership or readership, from which media outlets can price their
advertising Advertising is a marketing Marketing is the process of intentionally stimulating demand for and purchases of goods and services; potentially including selection of a target audience; selection of certain attributes or themes to emphasize ...

advertising
higher to increase their profits based on higher numbers of viewers and/or readers."What's Wrong With The News?"Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting
Accessed June 2011.
"Issue Area: Advertiser Influence."Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting
Accessed June 2011.
Sometimes this can lead to a lesser focus on objective journalism in favor of a
profit motive In economics Economics () is the social science that studies how people interact with value; in particular, the Production (economics), production, distribution (economics), distribution, and Consumption (economics), consumption of goods a ...
, in which editorial choices are based upon sensational stories and presentations to increase advertising
revenue In accounting, revenue is the income or increase in net assets that an entity has from its normal activities (in the case of a business, usually from the sale of product (business) , goods and services to customers). Commercial revenue may also be ...
.Sensationalism, Newspaper Profits and the Marginal Value of Watergate
Accessed September 2012
Additionally, advertisers tend to have a preference for their products or services to be reported positively in mass media, which can contribute to bias in news reporting in favor of media outlets protecting their profits and revenues, rather than reporting objectively about stated products and services."Issue Area: Censorship."Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting
Accessed June 2011.
However, newspapers have a duty to report and investigate stories related to
political corruption Political corruption is the use of powers by government officials or their network contacts for illegitimate private gain. Forms of corruption Corruption is a form of dishonesty Dishonesty is to act without honesty. It is used to describe a ...
. Such
investigative journalism Investigative journalism is a form of journalism in which reporters deeply investigate a single topic of interest, such as serious crimes, political corruption, or corporate wrongdoing. An investigative journalist may spend months or years resea ...
is right and proper when it is backed up with documents, interviews with responsible
witness In law, a witness is someone who has knowledge about a matter, whether they have sensed it or are testifying on another witnesses' behalf. In law a witness is someone who, either voluntarily or under compulsion, provides testimonial evidence, ei ...
es, and other
primary sources In the study of history History (from Greek , ''historia'', meaning "inquiry; knowledge acquired by investigation") is the study of the past. Events occurring before the invention of writing systems are considered prehistory. "History" is ...
. Journalists and editors are often accused of sensationalizing
scandals A scandal can be broadly defined as the strong social reactions of outrage, anger, or surprise, when accusations or rumours circulate or appear for some reason, regarding a person or persons who are perceived to have transgressed in some way. Th ...
by those whose public image is harmed by the legitimate reporting of the scandal. News organizations are not obliged to (and are often
ethically Ethics or moral philosophy is a branch of philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, Metaphysics, existence, Epistemology, knowledge, Ethics, values, Philosophy of min ...
obliged ''not'' to) avoid stories that might make local, state and national public figures uncomfortable. Occasionally, news organizations mistakenly relay false information from unreliable anonymous sources, who use mass media as a tool for
retaliation Revenge is defined as the act of committing a harmful action against a person or group in response to a grievance A grievance () is a wrong or hardship suffered, real or supposed, which forms legitimate grounds of complaint. In the past, th ...

retaliation
,
defamation Defamation (also known as calumny, vilification, libel, slander, or traducement) is the oral or written communication of a false statement about another that unjustly harms their reputation and usually constitutes a tort or crime In ordi ...
, victim and witness tampering, and monetary or personal gain. Therefore, any story based on sources who may be reasonably assumed to be motivated to act in this way is best interpreted with
critical thinking Critical thinking is the analysis of facts to form a judgment. The subject is complex; several different Critical thinking#Definitions, definitions exist, which generally include the rational, skepticism, skeptical, and unbiased analysis or evalu ...
. In extreme cases, mass media may report only information that makes a "" without regard for factual accuracy or social
relevance Relevance is the concept of one topic being connected to another topic in a way that makes it useful to consider the second topic when considering the first. The concept of relevance is studied in many different fields, including cognitive scie ...

relevance
. It has been argued that the distrust in government that arose in the aftermath of the
Watergate scandal The Watergate scandal was a major political scandal in the United States involving the administration Administration may refer to: Management of organizations * Management, the act of directing people towards accomplishing a goal ** Admin ...
created a new business tactic for the media and resulted in the spread of negative, dishonest and misleading news coverage of American politics; such examples include the labeling of a large number of political scandals, regardless of their importance, with the suffix "-gate".Watergate scandal changed the political landscape forever
Accessed September 2012
Such stories are often perceived (rightly or wrongly) as politically partisan or biased towards or against a group or individual because of the sensational nature in which they are reported. A media piece may report on a political figure in a biased way or present one side of an issue while deriding another. It may include sensational aspects such as
zealots The Zealots were a political movement in 1st-century Second Temple Judaism which sought to incite the people of Judea Province to rebel against the Roman Empire and expel it from the Holy Land The Holy Land (Hebrew language, Hebrew: , la ...
, doomsayers and/or
junk science The expression junk science is used to describe scientific data, research, or analysis considered by the person using the phrase to be wikt:spurious, spurious or fraudulent. The concept is often invoked in political and legal contexts where facts ...
. Complex subjects and affairs are often subject to sensationalism. Exciting and emotionally charged aspects can be drawn out without providing the elements needed (such as pertinent background, investigative, or contextual information) for the audience to form its own opinions on the subject.


In broadcasting

Sensationalism is often blamed for the
infotainment Infotainment (a portmanteau A portmanteau (, ) or portmanteau word (from "portmanteau (luggage) A portmanteau is a piece of luggage, usually made of leather and opening into two equal parts. Some were large, upright, and hinged at the back and ...
style of many news programs on radio and television. According to sociologist John Thompson, the debate of sensationalism used in the mass medium of broadcasting is based on a misunderstanding of its audience, especially the television audience. Thompson explains that the term 'mass' (which is connected to broadcasting) suggests a 'vast audience of many thousands, even millions of passive individuals'. Television news is restricted to showing the scenes of crimes rather than the crime itself because of the unpredictability of events, whereas newspaper writers can always recall what they did not witness. Television news writers have room for fewer words than their newspaper counterparts. Their stories are measured in seconds, not
column inch A column inch was the standard measurement of the amount of content in published works that use multiple Column (typography), columns per page. A column inch is a unit of space one column wide by high. A newspaper page Newspaper pages are laid out ...
es, and thus (even with
footage In filmmaking and video production, footage is raw, unedited material as originally filmed by a movie camera or recorded by a (Digital movie camera, often special) video camera, which typically must be film editing, edited to create a motion pictur ...
) television stories are inherently shallower than most newspaper stories, using shorter words and familiar idioms to express ideas which a newspaper writer is more free to expand upon and define with precision.


Online

The
digital revolution The Digital Revolution (also known as the Third Industrial Revolution) is the shift from mechanical and analogue electronic technology Technology ("science of craft", from Ancient Greek, Greek , ''techne'', "art, skill, cunning of hand"; ...
has completely changed the way people both create and react to news content. From a production standpoint, news outlets are now at a much higher risk of releasing content that is false because of how quickly news is circulated through the internet in order to capitalize on those views and clicks for profit. From a consumption standpoint, this means fewer people reading physical copies of newspapers and this is reflective in the way headlines are created for print media. The introduction of the term "
clickbait Clickbait is a text or a thumbnail link that is designed to attract attention and to entice users to follow that link and read, view, or listen to the linked piece of online content, with a defining characteristic of being deceptive, typicall ...
" into the forefront of the global lexicon has had implications in many major world events, specifically the election of Donald J. Trump to the presidency of the United States, which reflects the growing weakness in "controlling the limits of what it is acceptable to say". Another reason for the concern over internet sensationalism is the way certain algorithms can create "news loops" that show people the exact same thing over and over again, known as "
Echo chamber Echo chamber of the Dresden University of Technology Hamilton Mausoleum has a long-lasting unplanned echo An echo chamber is a hollow enclosure used to produce reverberation, usually for Sound recording and reproduction, recording purposes. ...
". Many characters on the internet have been able to profit off of these tactics by instilling fear through completely ridiculous and unverified sources which are able to self permeate online through these algorithms. While these algorithms are meant to prioritize more trustworthy sources, this doesn't always happen since they rely on keywords and phrases. As politics have become more polarized, these tactics have become increasingly prominent as news outlets realize how easy it is to push their own agendas on the internet in this fashion. It becomes easier to break the "
Overton window The Overton window is the range of policies politically acceptable to the mainstream population at a given time. It is also known as the window of discourse. The term is named after American policy analyst Joseph P. Overton, who stated that an ...
", and the gatekeepers, journalists at major media organizations, are losing power. Many countries have implemented response efforts to this issue, as distrust in the media has become a global concern alongside the rapidly changing format of news media.


See also

* Agnotology, the study of culturally-induced ignorance or doubt * Betteridge's Law of Headlines *CNN effect *Censorship *Clickbait *Culture of fear *Disinformation *Dumbing down *Echo chamber (media) *Exploitation film *Fake News *Infotainment *Jazz journalism *Junk food news *Loaded words *Man bites dog (journalism), Man bites dog *Mean world syndrome *Media bias in the United States *Media circus *Misinformation *Missing white woman syndrome *Moral panic *Profit motive *Propaganda model, in mass media *Pulp magazine *Spin (public relations), Spin, an interpretation of an event designed to sway public opinion *Succès de scandale *Tabloid journalism *tabloid (newspaper format), Tabloid *Trial by media *Yellow journalism


References


External links


"What's Wrong With the News?"
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Fairness & Accuracy In reporting
{{Media manipulation Criticism of journalism Mass media issues News media manipulation