Print Media: To Sell or to Inform?

For the past few years, one thing that has been seriously getting under my skin is the media. I know this is not something new and I’m sure lots of us feel the same way but I want to make a comment on it none-the-less.

I’ll forsake beating all forms of media with the same brush and I’ll just stick to the newspapers. TV, and social media, you have escaped my wrath. For now!

To get my point across I’ll use two recent events that have been prevalent in the weeks newspapers. The Boston Bombings and Luis Suarez. Before I start, let me just say that there are many print journalists out there that I admire but for the most part, that is not the case. It is in fact the opposite. Also, there are some newspapers (be they published in hard copy or online) that I do have time for but again, unfortunately, they are in the minority.

Earlier this week, two young men set two bombs to go off at the finishing line of the Boston Marathon. Three people were killed and more than one hundred were seriously injured. Some of those people losing limbs and undoubtedly all of them having their lives changed in some way forever. It was a horrendous act of violence aimed at innocent people who were just out for a day either as participants or spectators.

This story deserved the coverage it got from the media as did the follow up coverage of the killing of one of the suspects and the capture of the other. However, what irks me is this: What of the terror that happens daily around the world? What of the innocent lives murdered every day in Afghanistan, in Syria, in Iraq? What of the concentration camps in North Korea? What of the million refugees in Jordan who have fled from Syria? Surely the media, who themselves claim that their job is to inform us of the ‘truth’ of events around the world, have a responsibility to treat all such acts of violence with equal measure. Sensationalism sells. Yes, what those two young men did in Boston was horrible. A complete lack of respect for human life. Yet it is but a drop in the ocean of the terror, violence and abuse of human rights across the world today. Why has that particular story been the one to capture all the headlines? Why is it that an attack in the U.S or in the U.K attracts more attention than elsewhere in the world? There are too many variables to answer that question properly.

Yet let me share some facts with you. One of the most infamous days in recent history is the terrorist attacks on 9/11. Roughly 3,000 people died that day. Horror, sadness, anger, despair and in the aftermath, hope and the strength of the human spirit. These are some of the emotions that I felt on that day. Also, we will always have the images of the planes crashing into the towers for the rest of our lives. However, in Rwanda in 1994, 800,000 people are estimated to have died in 100 days. In the conflict in Libya 30,000 people are estimated to have been killed in the months that saw they overthrowing of Gadaffi. Up to now, the conflict in Syria has claimed roughly 70,000 lives and displacing almost a million. Now I am not trying to say that one event is more important than another. Yet what I am trying to say is that the media has a responsibility to report on all things in equal measure. We were filled with horror at the images from 9/11 or the Boston Bombings, yet how many images can you recall from Rwanda, from Libya or from Syria. From the way the media reports, 9/11 could have been the end of the world and the death of three people in Boston is an attack on freedom and the way of life as we know it. Yes they were horrible and terrible things to have happened, but so is what happened in Rwanda. So is what is happening in Syria right now. It’s not that it is not being reported on, but it is not sensationalised the same way. Perhaps if it was, more people might stand up and call for some sort of intervention from our own governments. The media has a responsibility which it seems to discount in favour of selling newspapers.

At the weekend, Luis Suarez, for the second time in his career, has bitten an opposing player. As a Liverpool fan I am often infuriated by his behaviour, but delight in his genius. This could not have been more true than at the weekend when he attempted to take a bit out of a Chelsea player’s arm. Disgusting behaviour. However, the media storm since has been over the top. “Ban him for life” “Liverpool must sell him” “A disgusting human being” “What kind of role model is he?”

All these quotes have been used over the past few days in relation to Suarez and that incident.

A few months back, it had been revealed that Ryan Giggs, a model of professionalism within the game, had been sleeping with his brothers wife for eight years. It hardly raised an eyebrow among the sports writers. If anything it was met with a degree of jocularity. Here is the double standard with sports writers. They hold up footballers (who are just men and women like you and I) as role models and ambassadors for behaviour. If you cheat at the game, or do something terrible within a game like Suarez did, you are a disgrace, scum, a coward, a bad role model for children. Yet, sleep with your brother’s wife for eight years, it is overlooked because of your brilliance and professionalism within the game. And it is not just Ryan Giggs. There are countless cases of footballers who have questionable behaviour off the football pitch but are wonderful human beings while playing. Skilful, passionate, competitive. And then the media claims they are bad role models when they cheat, etc?

What the media is actually saying to our young impressionable kids is this: If you are an athlete of great skill and compete at the highest level, your behaviour off the field, or golf course, or racing track, can be forgiven and forgotten about, yet if you misbehave within your sporting filed, you will be brandished as so for the rest of your life. More importantly they are saying, you can get away with cheating in your day to day life as long as you are successful and well behaved in your sporting life.

A fine message to be sending out to our children. Since when did footballers and other sports people become the moral compass for our society. Suarez bites a man on the arm and it is front page news for days. Syria has 1 million displaced people and over 70,000 dead. I only know that because I had to go a look for it. Perhaps the media needs to sit down, take a look at itself and decide that maybe, just maybe, they are more interested in selling newspapers than reporting on what truly matters.

2 responses to “Print Media: To Sell or to Inform?

  1. Another well written article Jay. Nail on the head. Our world is riddled with hypocrisy and inaccuracies and day after day more what happens on the western side of the world, while yes they are bad but in many cases pale in comparison to what happens in the east and far more media and political attention is given to them. Why?
    For a recent example the Boston Bombing 3 people killed when all the while civilians 17 Civilian’s were murdered by American Troops in Afghanistan and the most you were hear is that they were killed. And what was given more coverage? Yeah, the American’s think it’s the worst thing in the world when they’re attacked, but have no problem mass murdering others.
    Did you see the film years ago called Wag The Dog? That was the opposite that happened with Clinton. In the film they created a phoney war to over up a sex scandal, but in reality they had the Lewinsky story to cover up his borderline genocide in Yugoslavia, it was the bait and switch idea. Sickening.

    I agree with you too about the Soccer Player’s and other people of “notoriety”, they are given far to much lee way and let away horrendous things that regular people wouldn’t never get away with. Look at the player that bit the other one, he got a fine, I don’t know the amount but I am guessing the grand scheme of things it won’t make much difference to his day to day living. If it was a regular Joe Soap who who worked a 9 – 5 job he would probably be fired sued and or jailed for such a despicable offense.

    What irks me too is these “Rich Lists” Newspaper’s like to print. People are living in a recession, they are struggling to make ends meet to feed and clothe their family and what does the government do? It takes money you need and causes you to pay for what is just another burden. And the Newspapers in their wisdom print “The Rich List”, a salt in the wound story about people who are so rich they are probably beyond paying taxes.

    It’s an unjust world.

  2. Excellent points regarding the media themes that seem to be more focused on buying an audience than fairly reporting a balanced view of global atrocities. However, 9/11 is something that has led to millions of deaths around the globe. Worst of all, it was done by members of a political movement within the global elite in order to maintain their corrupt empire and send American soldiers to kill and die for its preservation. If you find this article compelling, please share this with your readers:

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