Sensationalised News -
Do you Believe the Hype?

Written by Zakiya Patel


When talking about “sensationalised” news, the image of a thirteen-year-old girl squealing over a celebrity break up springs to mind. The reality is that we are surrounded by sensationalised headlines and stories every day, often without knowing it. Whether absentmindedly scrolling through social media newsfeeds during our morning commute, flicking through a glossy magazine at the dentist’s office or skimming a free newspaper at a coffee shop, we are all susceptible to the tantalising headlines of the media.

The history of sensationalism can be traced back for centuries. World renowned Joseph Pulitzer was famously accused of appealing to the extreme emotions of the masses to sell his papers in the eighteen hundreds. While it is true that such “hype” draws in advertisement revenues from heavy web traffic, what does this mean for us - the readers? How do these vibrant headlines and juicy columns change the way we think? News that appeals more to the emotive and curious senses of the masses than that of accurate and unbiased journalism often results in “infotainment”. In other words, serious affairs are spiced up in an attempt to capture attention to draw in the readers. A hint of exaggeration, a dash of scandal and an extra focus on facts that stirs interest more than relevancy are tactics used by the media for us to pick up on their stories.

A primary effect of this is that readers become accustomed to being excited by the news they
read which is dangerous and manipulative at best. By appealing to senses and stirring up emotions such as anger, outrage and panic, readers then seek out more stories which arouse similar feelings. In return, serious news becomes boring with less attention paid to it. Does this then make us more restrictive in our thinking? Do we only turn to headlines which make us gasp without delving deeper into the facts and seeking alternate sources?

Perhaps sensationalism is not such a terrible thing. Exaggeration captures the attention and
spreads news more effectively. Sensationalism gets people more involved and immersed in the
world they live in. The long-lasting impression left on readers is what lives on. Once newspapers have been put down, phones turned off and magazines returned to the shelves,
opinions conjured from sensationalised stories are the ones the reader will carry on in their mind as they continue on with their day. The minds and thoughts of the generations of tomorrow’s leaders, as ‘purveyors’ of sensationalised headlines, may not be as multifaceted as they perhaps should be. Be wary to not fall into the trap of believing everything you see or read.