Sensationalism has been ever present in journalism for years upon years, even in the days before television. But TV has made it easier for journalists to exaggerate the truth or to try to boost ratings using attention-grabbing stories that often involve graphic content. Sometimes this practice is done by major networks. Other times the media known for this is less mainstream.
It is no secret that Fox News Channel is infamous for their bias and their distortion of the truth in many of the news stories they cover. Most of the time this is shown when they are doing a story that is designed to warn viewers about current cultural fads that they want to make seem more controversial than they actually are. For example, here is a “Culture Warriors” segment from “The O’Reilly Factor” in which Bill O’Reilly, Margaret Hoover and Gretchen Carlson talk about Lady Gaga’s music video for her song “Telephone.”
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While I agree that this particular music video should not be viewed by young children, I think Gretchen Carlson seems to be exaggerating quite a bit. First of all, her rant is very biased because she only focuses on the negative aspects of Lady Gaga. Second of all, if this music video was “pornographic” like she claimed it to be, do you really think the music channels like MTV and VH1 would air it at all? Yes, the video is pretty edgy for younger audiences, but MTV and VH1 have broadcasting standards that they have to abide by. Plus, most of Lady Gaga’s other videos are not nearly as risque as “Telephone,” so it is not like she is the most dangerous role model, although not the best either.
Which brings me to another point about Fox News Channel: They are also well-known for drawing in more viewers through the displays of video that is often controversial in nature. In another segment from the same show, O’Reilly, Carlson and Hoover attempt to “defend” the use of such video by claiming it is necessary to show some of such material in order for parents to know what their children are being exposed to. (It is only discussed in the first half of the segment. Whoever uploaded this video on YouTube included the second part about “Jon and Kate Plus 8″ as well.)
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I might cut Fox News some slack on this one because yes, there are times when you have to see things to believe them. But by the same token, “The O’Reilly Factor” is on at 8 p.m. when the kids are usually still awake, and we certainly do not want them to find stuff like that on TV, especially the news.
Despite FNC’s controversial nature, their attempts at sensationalized journalism pale in comparison to what one of the local TV stations back in my hometown are doing to boost ratings. Just because they claim to be “Cleveland’s #1 newscast” does not mean they used good ethics to do so. I will discuss that more in my next entry, and if you are a Northeast Ohio native like me, you probably know what I am getting at.