Gossip, speculation replacing facts in modern news media
Published: Thursday, January 14, 2010
Updated: Monday, August 16, 2010 09:08
Even though 2009 brought top headlines revolving around stories like our nation's first Black president and earthshaking celebrity deaths, the top story of 2009 in my eyes is that the national news media hit rock bottom.
There were plenty of hard news stories this year, but the national news media outlets didn't stop at just the facts. Once the news had been reported, news stations like CNN and FOXNews continued to air speculations and opinions regarding the top news stories. The result: talk-show atmospheres on what used to be trusted news networks.
To illustrate my point, let's take a look at the top five worst news media overreactions of 2009.
No. 5: Sarah Palin's strange world.
Sarah Palin's announcement on July 3 that she would abandon ship Alaska was legitimate news. Some may even argue that Palin's short feud with "The Late Show" host David Letterman, which began over his racy June 9 comment about Palin's 18-year-old daughter, had newsworthy attributes as well. However, the constant coverage of Palin's strained relationship with her grandson's father, Levi Johnston, should have been off the serious news media's radar. Stories about Palin's and Johnston's back-and-forth comments about whether or not he was allowed to see his son was a clear example of news stations turned gossip rags.
No. 4: Carrie Prejean's scandalous reign as Miss California.
Coverage of Prejean began when she made a less-than-supportive comment about gay marriage during her stage interview at the April 19 Miss America pageant in Las Vegas. From there, stories surfaced of Prejean's practically-nude photos. Analysts took over again, arguing over whether or not Prejean would keep her Miss California crown. While the national news stations covered everything between Prejean's badly-worded response and her dethroning on June 10, very few details even qualified as newsworthy events.
No. 3: Tiger Woods' downward spiral.
Golf legend Tiger Woods crashed his Cadillac SUV into a tree in the wee hours of Nov. 27, and things for him and his family only went downhill from there. After the crash, several women came forward, admitting to affairs with Woods. Woods is a public figure who endorsed many big-name products, so the public has the right to know about character flaws, including his alleged affairs. However, the fact that national news media outlets broadcast opinionated accusations of infidelity the day of the crash shows a gap in journalistic values. The facts of Woods' escapades were solid enough to inform the public of his transgressions. Analyses from so-called experts were completely unnecessary.
No. 2: Michael Jackson's June 25 death.
The death of the King of Pop was no doubt a shocking and far-reaching story. The loss of an icon in such a swift and unexpected way made for huge headlines across the globe. Coverage of the ongoing investigation and funeral services was provided quickly, as it should have been. There was plenty of newsworthy information to keep the national news media busy and viewers up to speed. Then came the speculations, the analysts who gave their two bits on why Jackson was the way he was, what might have happened to cause his death, and what his children must have been feeling at the time. To me, that was overboard and out of line.
No. 1: Jon and Kate Gosselin's messy battle.
Rumors of "Jon and Kate Plus Eight" stars' marital trouble began in May, and the couple officially filed for divorce in June. Their divorce was finalized by a judge on Dec. 18. Between May and December, the Gosselins attracted media probes into rumors of infidelity and child extortion. The national news media ran countless stories covering every possible new angle on the struggling family. Once again, speculations ran rampant on whose fault the breakup was and what would happen to the couple's twins and sextuplets. The national news media's in-depth coverage of the Gosselin breakup may not have been so wrong had it not affected the couple's already-vulnerable children, all under the age of 10.
All of these stories had newsworthy aspects, so media members were not wrong to investigate and report the facts of each story as they surfaced. However, the fault of the national news media is that factual stories were all too often muddled with speculations of people who had nothing more to give than opinion. While expert opinion is often valuable, speculations on ridiculous subjects, like whether or not Prejean's photos were too nude, turn serious news stories into gossip columns. Overall, news stories that incorporate unfounded opinions on silly issues make the media, as a whole, less credible.
News is news, and opinion is opinion. In 2009, the national media seems to have often disregarded those facts.