Sexy Sensationalism vs. The Facts

Modern Day Journalism questions the general public’s ability to see sensationalism in real time.


President Trump addresses El Paso with his intentions to build a border wall. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Jozlynn Magallanez, Commentary Editor, Social Media Manager

January 8, 2019, President Trump addressed the nation to discuss “the Humanitarian and National Security crisis on our Southern Border.” Prior to the president’s speech, there was skepticism among the press around whether or not airing the address live would be beneficial in informing the public. Many believed that the speech would be overtly political and that it was necessary to dissect and fact check the president due to previous miscommunications and factual errors. Stirring up conversations about journalistic responsibility. Although several stations allowed the live prime-time speech to take place, the question of whether the media actually holds the responsibility to filter through the information received by the public, and how they should do so, or if it is up to the general public to differentiate the truth from lies and inaccuracies.

I do not believe that the media would intentionally alter the president’s words to produce a negative effect.  I trust that journalists will report what is said as accurately, and not change what the president would say regardless if it was in real time or not,” commented Government teacher, coach Robert Ardis.

In recent years, American trust in the media has fluctuated for both ends of the political spectrum and everyone in between.With unintentional biases leaking into reporting and the rigorous 24 hour news cycle of the digital age, the lines of what is real and what is not have become increasingly blurry for the average American citizen. However, many polls, such as those conducted by Gallup, have concluded that faith may be restored.
“It almost seems like they’re waiting for the public’s reaction to adjust their stories to certain opinions, taking it out of context to fit their descriptions of what is happening. [The press] listening to Mr. Trump’s address at that very moment can put a halt to developing stories since the media relies on this time to properly introduce a biased opinion to the public,” said Teen Republicans Club member and junior Beatrice Summers.

The youth of today often finds itself struggling to identify unbiased news. Social media, clickbait, and cyclical trending presents endless information that is only glimpses of a story. This perpetuates misinformation and the demonization of news sources. It’s all about getting the story out first.  This does present a problem with identifying who is at fault and how to solve the issue. The EU has attempted to prevent these issues from continuing with Articles 11, which gives news publishers copyright over headlines and news snippets, and 13, which forces media platforms to monitor for the possible theft of intellectual-property prior to distribution of content. However, this has yet to be enforced and was not well received by the public.

“Unfortunately, the profit motive has a massive influence on how the news is presented to the public.  I think anything to take the sensationalism out of the news should be welcomed,” said Ardis in regard to what changes he believes should be made in the press.

Sensationalism: a fault on both ends. On June 17’s “Meet The Press,” the hosts picked apart a plethora of President Trump’s past statements and presented them as blatant lies rather than a perspective difference. A clip that contained a statement they deemed “false” is one in which the president said, “there is no trade war.” Yet, the tariffs imposed and threatened are fractions of the overall trade of goods taking place within the nation. Tariffs placed on all imported goods would raise around 0.6%. Compared to the Smoot-Hawley Tariff’s whopping 6.3% increase, the proposed increase seems far less like a “trade war” and more of a trade scuffle.

On the other hand, at a recent Trump Rally in El Paso, Texas, President Trump stated that there were a total of 35,000 people in attendance― 10,000 inside the arena and 25,000 outside. The El Paso Fire Department clarified that the El Paso County Coliseum is able to hold only 6,500 people at maximum capacity and instead of 25,000 there were only a few thousand outside. EPFD spokesperson Enrique Aguilar added that there may have been around 10,000 attendees total.

With that in mind, it is in the best interest of the public to view multiple news sources including ones with opposing views. In an era where the spread of information is viral, it is important to remain educated on, and present in, the world around you. Credibility, urgency, motive, relevancy, etc. are concepts to be taken into consideration when consuming developing stories. Although it may not be fair to be held responsible for sifting through sources while attempting to remain informed, it is one of the most reliable actions in our society today.