Now that most people get their news online, it has become imperative that writers get readers to click on their stories. So all we see on the homepage of our search engines are sensationalized headlines designed to entice people to click on stories. Yet, many of those stories are misleading and not newsworthy. .
Take a recent story that appeared in The Hill. The headline read: “Leaked memo shows Clinton was provided questions ahead of interview.” There was absolutely nothing relevant about this story which concerned a television interview of Hillary Clinton by Steve Harvey, a comedian who hosts a variety talk show. The story claimed that Hillary Clinton was given the questions ahead of the interview. However, many talk shows (which are NOT news shows) conduct pre-interviews with their guests and provide them with information as to what topics will be covered. So this particular story had no news value. The ONLY reason that it was written was to imply another scandal so that people would click on the story. It’s as though the reporter of this story wanted to imply that Clinton was favored by the media or perhaps that she received the Presidential debate questions ahead of time or that there was something shady about this practice or all of the foregoing. And the fact that this very unimportant story was picked up and published by several online sites only demonstrates the pathetic willingness of the media to chase innuendos instead of actually reporting news.
Journalism is supposed to be the objective reporting of newsworthy events. There shouldn’t exist “right leaning” or “left leaning” online news sites or publications. If reporting is leaning either way, it’s not news, it’s an opinion. But this is what happens when people like Rupert Murdoch and his News Corp. are allowed to control over 100 media sites and publications (including Fox News, which really should be renamed Fox Entertainment, and the Wall Street Journal, which used to be a respectable publication).
To be fair, not all journalists are guilty of sensationalism or biased reporting. But those who have tried to report facts seem to be completely disconnected from their target audience. They don’t write to the reader; many write as though they are trying to impress someone with their writing skills and vocabulary. They use words like misogynist and flummoxing. Do they really think that the ordinary reader understands such words? People won’t bother reading a story that’s too difficult to read and therefore will never get the message of that story. Perhaps that’s why so many people are tuning in to watch political satirists and comedians like John Oliver and Trevor Noah. These people, in between their jokes and idiotic gifs, actually do convey facts obtained from extensive research and they are able to do it in ways that the ordinary person can understand. The best example of this, so far, is John Oliver’s broadcast on September 25, 2016 which examined the negative claims against both Clinton and Trump and reached a conclusion in a way that viewers could understand. And yes, it was hilarious.
Perhaps we would all be better off if for every piece of bad news that the media reported, they would also publish a story about some of the good people in our country who are doing good things. Perhaps then we who read the “news” wouldn’t feel so hopeless and as though the entire world has gone crazy.