Sensational journalists are on the rise

by Emily Alvarenga, Staff Columnist

Today’s media has evolved greatly from what it started as centuries ago, and not for the better. Society greatly influences what the news focuses on and what topics are reported, but what most don’t realize is the influence the quality of our news stories have on the general public. Sensational news about celebrities and big, bold events take precedent over coverage of global happenings. People want excitement and drama, even in their news.

Because of this, journalists today lead incredibly stress-filled lives. The types of news stories viewers demand lead some journalists to believe they are given no choice but to compromise their ethics in acquiring content. Getting the story and keeping the flow of a steady paycheck take precedent over credibility for a lot of people. So, who’s to blame?

Most know to take what the news says with a grain of salt, but when did it become normal for the news to report complete falsities and get away with it? Journalists have become too quick to focus on the timeliness of their stories, rather than accuracy and it shows. This is not only causing ethical discrepancy, but credibility concerns.

“I don’t read or watch the news very often,” engineering graduate student Josh Pactin said. “But when I do, I know that most of what is being reported has to be a half-truth. I don’t know when the news got this way, but it is certainly the biggest reason that I don’t pay more attention to it in the first place.”

Just look at the variation of stories published across different news outlets. Reporting a breaking story has become more like a game of telephone than news. As the first news outlet reports the story, others quickly follow, cutting corners and posting the first facts they find, no matter the source.

It seems as though journalism has come down to making a choice between keeping a job or doing the right thing. This shouldn’t be an option; we should be held to higher standards than we are now.

“Online journalism has created scales of efficiency,” Journalism and Media Studies Professor Carrie O’Connell said. “Consequences of speed, when to post and present the information received, that create new situations regarding journalistic judgment and responsibility.”

A journalist has an obligation to the public to report the facts and this shortcoming is proving to have dire consequences. According to a recent study, 60 percent of Americans say that they don’t trust the press. News organizations should hold employees accountable for the stories that are reported, and the public shouldn’t be as willing to forgive the news outlet at fault. This isn’t about some little fib – it’s about what is going on in the world around us. It’s about the important stuff.