Somebody has posted a great list of all that is wrong with newsmedia:
1. Great emphasis on the dramatic
2. Failure to distinguish between opinion and fact
3. Repetitive dissemination of original reports from a few limited sources without checking or questioning information
4. A catering to what the media perceives as the popular belief or their belief over reporting the facts
5. Reporters that have disturbingly low levels of knowledge in the areas they report on
6. Sometimes blatant misrepresentation of the facts by reporters in major news organizations
7. A tendency to run with the “latest story” to the point of boredom at the expense of broader, more informative reporting
8. Information becoming “truth” based on degree of repetition
Those points truly are the way contemporary newsmedia work, and especially those dealing with day-to-day stuff.
We should never forget that newspapers, newsmagazines, TV/radio news programs are meant to be sold and capture the widest possible audience.
They are built to re-inforce the prejudice and convictions of the people that are going to buy them. Sometimes, they could challenge their readers, but bankruptcy is in order if they do that too boldly.
You simply can’t do that by being 100% honest, informative, opinion-free…articles based on that would bore to death most of the readership.
That’s why history books are written by scholars, instead of being reprints of old newspapers.
The above is not meant to be taken as an insult. Hey, I am a part-time journalist myself!!
I see it more as the way things “are”, just as new models of cars are always presented with scantily-clad girls and watches invariably point to 10 past 10 in photo ads.
People have tried to act differently but few if any of those businesses have survived.
On the other hand I do agree there is no internal, contemporary “media trend” toward alarmism. Readers’ titillation has always been the order of the day, so any change is likely to have been as a result of a change in what the readers wanted.
As an example, compare the opening pages of London’s The Independent from 20-30 years ago with the screaming trendy single-issue front page of today. And don’t forget the failure of the “good news” newspaper put out a few years ago, again in London (by the Guardian, I believe)?
I don’t think I need to mention any self-proclaimed “Fair and Balanced” news network here.
Perhaps the newspapers of 1907 were scary, exciting and dramatic for their readers, but they don’t appear as such to us simply because (by definition) we are not the people those were meant to be sold to.
There is only one challenge for all the readers: and that is to provide ourselves with the tools for critically managing the streams of news we are bombarded with.
And by that I mean being able first of all to look for cause-and-effect, so that if event A should cause event B, don’t believe A has happened until B has showed up too.