It’s yellow journalism, and it can be helped
March 30, 2011
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As a member of the press, I have to admit a certain measure of wonder as I question the ethics and degree of practicality shown to be – I say – lacking in the coverage of the tragedy that has befallen Japan – in particular, the lack of coverage by the media regarding the safety of the nuclear power plants; the safety that minimizes the risk of catastrophe inherent in the design of the nuclear reactors (with the degree of safety to be found in the design and emergency protocols at nuclear power plants perhaps newsworthy themselves); and the gratuitous “coverage” of the disaster, even to the point of dancing along the line of alternative history, playing the “what-if” game.
Is the media espousing yellow journalism as it calls to mind the shadow of terror at the thought of what might happen if a nuclear power plant exploded and saturated vast areas with radioactive fallout, which, as it happens, they are not likely to do? Is the media, in its zeal for reporting a newsworthy event (I do not claim in any way that the earthquake was not newsworthy) and fairly expounding upon the tragedy and danger of earthquakes and the sadness tied to the loss of human life, being unfair in allowing, or, I charge, fostering fear by way of allowing ignorance to perpetuate and grow in light of related but misleading information?
If it is the prerogative of the media to report the news, it is the responsibility of the media to present it objectively and fairly, to show all sides of an issue. It is not the responsibility nor the prerogative of the media to push sensationalism in the name of viewer/reader numbers, or in the name making news more interesting more interesting than it inherently is. It is not the job of journalists to entertain, but to inform.
So as not to admonish the media and stigmatize all of us as being unethical, unfair and unwise and be all at once myself, I charge those of us who are not so described to remember why we do what we do. The truth is out there, and it is our task to uncover it and to share it, and we must present it as it is, not as we would have it be.