Sensationalism is the enemy of information


Brett Hodges, Staff Columnist

Americans today crave news, and not just the cold, factual journalism that was present in the 1960s with the advent of television news. If a news story is not appealing enough to grab a viewer’s attention within seconds, it is deemed un-newsworthy and discarded from public discourse. As a result, stories that are not factually based are often pushed to the forefront of the news cycle for mainstream consumption. This further causes misinformation to be spread amongst the American public, which tears deeply at the very fabric of society and our core values as a nation.

Without the proper information, Americans are unable to make informed decisions about political, social and economic issues. When misinformation and sensationalized news is forced upon the public by all major outlets, not only the American public suffers, but so do politicians, innocent people who are found guilty in the court of public opinion and journalism as a whole. This is not to say that those who have scandalous news should refrain from sharing it, but this sort of information should first be verified by multiple sources before it is even considered publishable.

Countless lives have been ruined by an over-eagerness to take a story to print. Arguably, this is due to the American people’s tendency to believe most news, but the responsibility almost exclusively rests on the media. In a democratic society, voters are only as knowledgeable as the media allows them to be, and news outlets possess a moral and ethical obligation to ensure that these voters receive all of the information necessary to make a rational decision come election day.

With midterm season upon us, it is more important than ever that this obligation is upheld. In order to affect a real change, voters must hold their news sources accountable. Furthermore, every American voter should learn to educate themselves and to take every news article with a grain of salt. Individual research should be undertaken and each and every person should form their own opinion without the influence of others. Only then will news outlets begin to publicize the cold, hard facts that we need to hear.

For too long, the American public has placed their faith in the 24-hour news cycle, and the current political climate is representative of that. America is at one of its most divisive points in modern history. Even the slightest amount of political commentary can inflame a discussion until it is a shouting match, and this can all be traced back to media misinformation and partisan politics.

Should we ever hope to truly advance as a country, the very first step is to be educated consumers and hold our media outlets accountable. When the public keeps the media in check, rather than the media controlling the opinions of the public, our society flourishes, both politically and socially.