Journalists have been covering stories for centuries now and the way stories are told hasn’t really changed over the years but the way information is spread has.
Sensationalism in the media is a type of editorial bias which events and topics in news stories and pieces are over-hyped to increase viewership or readership numbers. In other words; not being honest with your audience and trying to bury facts to shock your viewers.
Nathan Smith, a Professor at Fanshawe College and News Director at AM980 says the #TorontoTunnel story was sensationalized because the facts that police were proving to the media were limited at the time and officers didn’t believe there to be any connection to terrorism or illegal activity.
A possibility as to why that story was sensationalized could be because it was a mysterious tunnel near the Pan Am games site and terrorism was in the news at that time.
It can be done on purpose or by accident.
“…there are still some people and not just young reporters but I think older reporters as well that think the story is not enough just to tell the story for it to be interesting on it’s own that they got to do something, whether it be a snappy headline or whether it be a creative lead line.” Smith said.
It can also be done without the journalist even knowing that they are sensationalizing the story or the journalists heart could be in the right place to reach as many people as they can by grabbing their attention.
Sensationalism can have a few different forms like the coverage of a story and viewers, listeners, or readers decide that it is a sensational story but in fact it isn’t meant to be. For instance the Ebola scare at Victoria Hospital, where staff provided information to the media fairly quick about what was happening and the media reported those facts. The public thought it was being sensationalized because it wasn’t confirmed to be Ebola.
“…there are examples of deliberate sensationalism on the part of the media in some cases and I think there are in other cases where the public interprets sensationalism where none really exists.” Smith said.
Smith adds when the public can trust a specific news station or even a reporter then they in turn will trust that the stuff they are telling is the truth and at the end of the day the trust element is vital in keeping.
If a story is good to report on then the facts should stand on their own but if it isn’t then it comes down to why is the story even being covered.