“Lindsey Lohan: Out on Parole,” and “Charlie Sheen Back in Rehab.” These are examples of the headlines currently selling newspapers and magazines. Sensationalism (subject matter, language, or style producing or designed to produce startling or thrilling impressions) has become the most prominent asset in American media. I believe that the nation has lost sight of what media should be all about: reporting factual information.
One of the biggest issues in the media is in the stories that they fabricate by dramatically twisting small reports or quotes out of context. Frequently this is done through “the denial quotation.” This is accomplished by someone making up a plausible rumor about some sort of scandal involving an influential figure, such as a celebrity or politician. The rumors often include a celebrity having an affair or a politician involved in a shady act. Reporters would then attempt to interview the celebrity or politician, who would obviously deny the claim. Thus, a misleading story, usually with the template “[celebrity] denies affair,” is given validity because they actually have denied it.
Reporters often employ other methods to develop their fabrications. For example, they will take any story spoken by any person and discuss it enough or interview officials about it, and suddenly it is deemed valid. Another popular way of making up a news story is actually by using a real story. Unfortunately, that story is then twisted out of context and exaggerated to the point where it is incredibly misleading, yet because it uses a real story, it automatically has credibility. At one point, President Obama encouraged children to stay in school, and suddenly it is reported as a conspiracy involving the government attempting to propagandize the youth of America.
The second major issue with the media is the fact that it appeals to the laziness that is now attributed to Americans. Many news reports, television shows, and radio shows are usually reporting on quick and easy ways to live life without any need to work. A week ago, when I went to use my computer, a news website was open. I immediately noticed that nine out of ten articles were on quick ways to lose weight or make money. Since then, I have noticed numerous other examples of this. The American stereotype is fat and lazy, and much of the media appeals to it.
While exaggerated, many movies, such as Idiocracy and Wall-E, depict Americans in the future as unintelligent or overweight and lazy. Although this is not a reality and is depicted by movies, 68% of Americans are overweight and 34% are obese. Also, the national average rate of dropouts is a staggering 25%. This clearly shows that laziness is increasing, and rather than encouraging hard work, the media attempts to satisfy laziness by offering the “10 best-paying jobs to work at home” or X amount of ways to lose Y amount of weight in Z amount of time.
Lastly, the media “dumbs it down” by focusing solely on ability to entertain rather than to inform. An appalling example of this is the fact that news on the recent “Egyptian Revolution” was drowned out by much less important “news.” Friday, February 11, 2011, Egyptian President Mubarak resigned after eighteen days of public protesting and rioting. That day, I had gone onto Yahoo, only to see that there was no news on this, but rather the latest news on celebrities, along with many articles similar to the aforementioned examples of fabricated stories and appeals to laziness. This illustrates how the media has become so intent on entertainment instead of information.
While I don’t believe it is some brainwashing conspiracy, I do believe that the media is currently far too driven by entertainment and money. Entertainment value certainly is a large aspect of what is necessary in the media, but the sole purpose should remain to inform the public of real news, not to entertain with exaggerated stories, make people feel smart by removing complexity from the news (which usually results in removing “real” news), or to make them believe that laziness pays off.