The “Line” for the Media

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2014 was an eventful year for sure. The Ferguson riots, the Donald Sterling Drama, and ISIS all were in this year’s headlines. The news teams sure had their work cut out for them. But through all this, the media should have been a bit more careful in how they covered certain topics. Historically, and in 2014 for that matter, there have been several instances of media teams covering and writing articles about certain topics in a way that was inappropriate.

Media coverage is important in our everyday lives: it serves as a way for us to get information on what’s important in our world at the time. Yet, there have been some questionable media reports of late. For example, did TMZ really need to release a video of Ray Rice abusing his wife? Everyone knew it had happened, so was it really necessary to show something that should have been private? Although I do not agree with the actions that Ray Rice took against his wife, it was extremely unprofessional to release his private information into the rest of the world. Another big story in the sports world this year was everything that followed Donald Sterling. Again, his views were disgusting and he deserved to get in trouble, but his phone call was recorded without his consent, which is illegal, and then released by several media outlets. Yes, what he said was not okay, but releasing his private phone calls without his consent isn’t okay. One final example of inappropriate news coverage in the sports world is the reportage on Michael Sam. Earlier this year, ESPN, the undisputed king of the jungle in sports news, released an extremely inappropriate report about Michael Sam. Michael Sam, if you didn’t know, was the first openly gay player to get drafted into the NFL. He should have been viewed as a trailblazer and a pioneer for showing that sexual orientation doesn’t matter and anyone can lace up a pair of cleats and go out onto a football field. Instead ESPN released a report letting everyone know that Michael Sam’s teammates didn’t mind having a homosexual shower in their locker room. Although ESPN did apologize after, it just makes viewers wonder why things are covered in this way.

Moving away from sports and into health, the biggest health concern in 2014 was Ebola. Yes, Ebola was very scary to think about, but the odds of someone getting it were low. And yet, everybody panicked. There is a finger to point as to who freaked everyone out regarding Ebola and that finger goes directly to the media teams. The major news outlets have a bad habit of constantly talking about the same topics for days and weeks on end. The Ebola scare was no exception. It was important to have coverage on Ebola, but it became a bigger health concern than it should have been. The news outlets should have been writing many informational articles about why we should be worried about the unlikely chance of contracting Ebola. Instead, this article, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-26835233, is titled: “Why Ebola is Dangerous”. It’s hard to understand why news outlets are trying to give their readers such frightening news.

The same questions apply to coverage of celebrities. How must it be for famous people? Sure, there is quite a bit of negative publicity that celebrities bring upon themselves, yet just imagine… Every move you make, everything you say, is all being looked at and twisted and turned by TMZ. The site for TMZ is literally titled celebrity gossip. Nobody likes a gossiper in the lunchroom, but then why is it okay for someone to release gossip to be seen by millions of people? These gossip news outlets have been a negative influence on the youth of America. Certain articles can teach children to make assumptions. For example, I just pulled up the TMZ website and one the first articles that came up was this: http://www.tmz.com/2014/12/11/tyga-anjali-ranadive-sacramento-kings-video-jet/?adid=hero5. This is an article that rap star “Tyga” might be having some sort of relationship with another lady even though the media highlights his relationship with Kylie Jenner. Is this the type of news that should be reported? Are these the “role models” we want our youth seeing everyday? There seem to be a sentiment that expresses concern with that.

When an article is based more on facts than gossip or interpretation, not only will it come out better, it will also have more credibility. There are certain topics that, because they depend on facts, can also give articles an advantage. For example, elections are a hard thing for the media to mess up due to the fact that they revolve around numbers and statistics. In politics there are specific analysts that can argue for a certain side that they know a lot about. For example, Fox, a conservative media outlet, would be a very credible source for topics concerning the Republican Party. However, while it may be factual, the news they cover and the opinions they offer, still may be biased.

Now why are some of these trickier topics even covered in the first place? Let’s go back to when TMZ released the video of Rice hitting his wife. There are some potential benefits to releasing something like this. For example, releasing this video lets people know that domestic violence is real and lets those might be dealing with domestic violence know that they are not the only ones going through that struggle. What about the topic of Ebola? It was certainly important to let people know that Ebola was happening, but we as a society were also forced to freak out over something that shouldn’t have really been a concern to us. Do we really need to know every little detail of who wore what at the Grammys courtesy of TMZ? Well, maybe we do.

So where exactly does this line begin and end for what media outlets should and should not cover? Well, the answer is going to differ for every person as everyone is going to feel comfortable with different things. It is both a good thing and a bad thing that we as a society will likely never come to a single conclusion on this matter. Many feel that these topics should indeed be covered in these ways while others feel that they should not be covered in that certain way. Some people enjoy reading the type of news that TMZ offers and others feel it is damaging to the youth of our country. It is impossible for everyone to compromise, and it is also impossible to really change the way news is covered in this day and age. This is not to mention how fast news can spread over social media as well. At the end of the day where do you draw your line?

 

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