Journalism is often shrugged off as just communication but it is more than mere communicating on a larger scale and has features that distinguish it
Journalism is often shrugged off as just communication but it is more than mere communicating on a larger scale and has features that distinguish it from other forms of communication we operate on. Journalism is gathering, assessing, structuring information, and producing it as news. News is the product of all these processes. Journalism is not any other job, but a service to mankind and is often touted as the fourth pillar of any democracy. It is also indispensable to democracy, and the freedom to press is a reflection of how democratic a society is.
Yet, we see much fake news that crops up every now and then, with mainstream players in the business, also backing up a few misinformation. This traces us back to the advent of yellow journalism.
What is Yellow Journalism?
The purpose of journalism at the basic level is to adhere to the need for awareness and real time education to people. The role of news that plays in a citizen’s life is immense, and often the perception of certain things gets created by the narrative that gets fed to them by the news channels. Which in itself is the power to many stakeholders economically and politically. The stakeholders include advertising agencies, politicians, businesses, manufacturers, and more. So, any lie could be projected as truth, and that is what yellow journalism is in simple words.
Yellow journalism/press are the American terms given to the kind of journalism that indulges in propagating false news. News that does not add value to the viewer or reader, along with using eye-catchy headlines. This involves techniques like exaggerating news events, sensationalizing, or scandal-mongering, just to sell the news. It is generally unethical, and there are strict laws by the government and news regulating bodies against catapulting on any of these techniques.
How did this start?
There have been specific instances that were termed as yellow journalism, but over-the-years it has become mainstream, and the base remains the same. There have been no special terms given to this type of journalism. This started with companies aiming to sensationalize the news and create profits with it. Gradually, it also became a medium to spread propaganda and garner political attention.
Instances of Yellow Journalism in history:
- Spanish – American War: This was the most influential time of yellow journalism. It has also been viewed that this helped in further amplifying the war. Maine, a US battleship sunk due to an explosion. False articles were published by Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst claiming some internal plot behind the explosions. This created tensions between both the countries and eventually war.
- Sensationalizing Cuban Freedom Struggles: Cuba had been a Spanish colony for a long time and had to struggle to be freed from the colonizers. Pulitzer and Hearst took this an opportunity and extensively covered the hard struggle by the Cuban population, often bashing Spain and its atrocities. They had bold headlines and exaggerating coverage of the incident. This became a huge marketing prospect for their publications and sold millions of copies.
Yellow Journalism Today
The above-mentioned are some issues that exploded due to irresponsible journalism by a few people. Yet, this has been prevalent ever since on all mainstream news — print and visual alike. There are subtle lines here and there, creating click baits through headlines are all subtle forms of yellow journalism. ‘Crazed Woman Chases Brad Pitt’ is a very attention-grabbing headline that just sets the wrong narrative from the first word. Yet, later it has been proved that the woman was just running after him to take a picture.
One more primary aspect of these has been the businesses they do in terms of viewership. Viewership makes the cash registers ringing, and people are often tempted to sensationalize the news extensively to make it efficient enough to catch eyeballs.
We are subjected to such gimmicks every day through all sorts of media. At present many media houses belong to famous businessmen, who use it to propagate their agenda and also create biases in society. Sometimes they are indirect and sometimes direct, but slowly we get used to these, and we become part of the same ecosystem that they wish to create.
So, does that mean we discard all these and keep on going with our life? No. Gradually, we would be subjected to so much false news that their repercussions might become difficult to handle. We need to be cautious while we consume such news and work towards minimizing this.
- Verify the Source: While you choose to believe in a piece of news or otherwise, before generating opinions, check the source the news has been coming from. The news channels are not the actual source, but the place from they receive the content is what one needs to look for.
- Cross-check before sharing: Any fact you chose to share with anyone before you click on the share button, cross-check the news and the facts posed in it. Go the extra mile to read more and understand the context.
- Avoid Click baits: Any news that you feel is misleading, even though the content is factual and authentic. Yet the headline does not seem right, are click baits. Avoid any such news, and encourage your peers and family to do the same.
- Question: If something has been projected wrong, and you utterly feel that it needs to be stopped, call it out and bring that to the attention of more people, so that no one remains in the dark. Social Media is a weapon that could be used for the right and do it your way.
Yellow Journalism is still prevalent in many areas, so let us wake as consumers and propagators of facts