More often than not, stories that get reported in main news outlets, magazines, and newspapers tend to center around bad news. Stories of kidnappings, natural disasters, terrorist attacks, war reports, executions, domestic violence, and all out murder are common subjects that grace the weekly headlines. But when can footage of such things be considered too extreme? Should there be a line drawn when it comes to what can be reported in the media?
A classic example of this debate is Saddam Hussein's hanging back in 2006. Many believed that the media had gone too far when images and videos of his execution started surfacing all over the Web. Many argued that the execution was handled poorly and that footage of him actually being hung should never have been circulated.
While the news industry has learned from such experiences and have improved somewhat, there are still accusations of sensationalism being brought to the table. Many fear that the news will eventually be reporting solely for the purpose of 'getting a good story', even if that means sacrificing important news material for more 'exciting' or 'dramatic' pieces instead.
What do you think? Has the news 'turned to the dark side', so to speak, and caused us to focus more on dramatic images and issues, rather than the actual news itself? Has it gone too far in it's depiction of violence and crime? And, should there be some sort of censorship when it comes to what kinds of footage and images that should be depicted?
I look forward to hearing from all of you. Let me know what you think :)
Thank you for your reply. You make a good argument when you point out that the public is also to blame in the increasing appearance of sensationalism in the news. Coming from Seattle, I know exactly what you mean when you talk about the fact that even the advertisements in the US for things such as videogames contain violent and sensationalized images, making it impossible for the public to escape it, even if they wanted to. Basically, people have been born into this new culture of citizen journalism and shocking imagery and many do not know any better. This in turn causes them to hunger for dramatic stories that contain a 'shock factor' thus changing the marketing demands of the media, which forces journalists and news companies to change their way of reporting in order to keep up with the competition and satisfy their audience.
I think that sooner or later there will have to be a breaking point. The pendulum can only swing so far before it starts heading back in the other direction. While citizen journalism can be a useful tool for professional journalists to give excitement and a sharp angle to their story, they should not lose sight of the true purpose of journalism, which is, "to provide citizens with accurate and reliable information they need to function in a free society". It is like you said, you do not need to see the hanging of Saddam Hussein to know all the facts and understand the situation. There needs to be a balance between the actual facts and the shocking images that accompany those facts. If we go too far in either direction we risk either having to rely on gossip magazines for information or being left completely in the dark about what is going on around the world. At the moment, I think we are heading more towards the 'gossip magazine' side of the spectrum and I can only hope that news agencies and journalists will be able to hold their ground and focus on quality reporting before it is too late. Media professionals should try and find a way to make less sensationalized news attractive again. After all, we can only become desensitized to a certain point and after that, what happens then? There will be nothing left to 'impress' us so, does that mean we risk losing journalism and the news altogether?