Should media be sensational? No and Yes. Here’s the neutral perspective.

Just to be clear, by sensationalism, we mean exaggeration of news and events to form biases in the mind of readers or listeners (and in some cases, also leading to manipulation of facts).

This is why sensationalism is NOT good:

  • Focus on sensationalism leads to the wrong kind of news being given priority over news that actually matters. For example at one time, a child fallen in a pit was covered incessantly by all news channels for 8 hours! News about break-ups, divorce, relationships of celebrities are always picked up, for this very reason.
  • Sensationalism has the potential to put security of the country in jeopardy. Continuous live coverage of 26 / 11 attack is a reminder.
  • In trying to make news items sensational, false reporting is often encouraged. This in turn, erodes the confidence of viewers as far as the authenticity of news is concerned. In the recent issue of JNU, Zee News allegedly ran doctored video of slogans chanted by the JNU students. Discussion on these videos shaped the outlook of the country.
  • In the quest to be sensational, distinction between facts and opinions is often blurred.
  • Sometimes, for lack of a good news story, media ends up “creating” sensational stories – instead of deep investigative and neutral coverage of genuine issues.

This is why sensationalism is not bad:

  • Sensationalism improves accountability of administration to some extent. Sting operations (conducted to create “breaking” sensational news stories) have brought forth scams / politician-businessmen nexus etc. to the public, and that’s not a bad thing.
  • If one thinks about it, sensationalism has been behind some good public movements like the Anti Corruption movement by Anna and team or the Nirbhya Movement.
  • Sensationalism leads to more citizens discussing and debating news items, which otherwise could just go unnoticed and brushed aside.

Feature image source:

Edited by Amrit Vatsa.


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