Megan Taylor

front-end dev, volunteacher, news & data junkie, bibliophile, Flyers fan, sci-fi geek and kitteh servant

The Downside of Mass Media


TV news treats Anna Nicole as though she were Princess Di –
“In cable, you only need an extra half-million or million viewers to produce a serious spike in the ratings, and that’s why Anna Nicole Smith, nearly two weeks after her death, is still sucking up plenty of cable oxygen,” Howard Kurtz tells chatters. “At least after the day of her unexpected death, Anna Nicole has not become a newspaper obsession. It’s TV that is treating her as though she were Princess Di.” ALSO: “I think the media have really been lazy in the knee-jerk reporting on Romney=Mormon=political problems,” says WP’s media critic.

Howard Owens

Ever since the first online editor e-mailed to the newsroom a Top 10 list of the most read stories on the web site, the debate has raged:

* Why do readers want the sensational stuff?
* Are we in danger of letting reader stats dictate coverage?

There has always been an underlying conflict in journalism — readers complain about sensationalism, but accidents, crimes, natural disasters and gossip help sell papers and spike TV ratings. On the web, we just get to witness the conflict in real time. Journalists want to be high minded, but they also want an audience.

Adam Reilly notes that the dueling values of readers and journalists are epitomized on one story on Tom Brady’s love child. Readers complain, but it’s also the most e-mailed story on the site. Umm …

On the day of Anna Nicole’s death, I skipped more feeds in Google Reader than on any other given day. Having figured out from a headline that some woman I don’t know anything about was dead, I read one article, where I found out that she married rich and lived fast. Then I stopped caring.

This is an argument I have with a lot of people outside the Jou field. “Oh, the media is so sensationalist and focuses on so many things that aren’t important…”

And yet sensationalism sells.

Can anyone tell me why?