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October 11, 2005

Elements of Journalism: 9-10

"Journalism is our modern cartography. It creats a map for citizens to navigate society. That is its utility and its economic reason for being."

I love this metaphor. After all, "The journalist who writes what 'she just knows to be true,' without really checking first, is like the artist who draws sea monsters in the distant corners of the New World."

As wrong as false information and sensationalism in the newsroom is, how much do we as readers/viewers prefer it in our "news." Would we rather the facts, or the sensational picture?

We don't mind sacrificing the truth for entertainment.

"When the future is uncertain, and it is unclear how long you can stay in business unless you generate audience fast, which approach should you pursue?" Facts or Sensationalism?

I think that the response has been varied, but the print media has stayed more in touch with telling the story, and broadcast media has headed towards emotional stimulation and sensationalism.
Sites like www.drudgereport.com or the AP wire services are probably the most straightforward.

If "In the end journalism is an act of character," then there should be no sensationalism whatsoever. I agree with this ideal. Call me a purist, but wouldn't it be nice if this were the case? To read or watch the news without having to constantly combat sensational marketing ploys would be delightful.

Other people have questioned the unbiased-ness of articles catagorized as news- regarding current events, and even in major publications...

Another Lapse of Journalistic Integrity at The New York Times
Journalistic integrity or clever deception?
Journalistic Integrity?
Journalistic Truth
Bad Journalism

Posted by DavidDenninger at October 11, 2005 01:01 PM


We don't always have to make a choice between truth and entertainment. Sometimes the truth can actually be used to excellent effect in providing entertainment.

Look at the stories about Hurricane Katrina that appeared on broadcast news, for instance, and featured footage of people stealing from stores during the chaos, people being plucked off of roofs by helicopters, etc.

Posted by: ChrisU at October 12, 2005 05:32 PM

Thanks Chris--
That's very true. In the case of disasters like Katrina and 9/11, the truth can be captivating. For instance, everyone knows what it looked like when the towers fell-- it's an image burned into everyone's mind. The footage tells its own story.

Posted by: David Denninger at October 12, 2005 05:54 PM

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